Danielle Wells

One clinic in Travis County can no longer provide abortions because of Texas’ most recent abortion law, and three clinics currently open will close next year when the remaining provisions of the law are implemented, according to Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Sarah Wheat.

Wheat said part of the law that has not yet been implemented includes regulations on sizes of janitor’s closets, parking lots and air vents in health centers, though, none of the clinics in Travis County meet the requirements that must be implemented by September 2014.

Planned Parenthood’s South Austin location is the only clinic in Travis County that has stopped providing abortion services because of the law, Wheat said.

Savanna Faulkner, Texas Students for Life president, said 43 percent of women seeking abortions are college-aged, and the bill will improve abortion safety for students by helping ensure that doctors are well-equipped to perform procedures.

“A lot of times abortions go really wrong,” Faulkner said. “[The provision] shows that these doctors are quality doctors and … an abortion is a surgical thing that happens, so why are they not held to the same standards as all other surgical doctors?”

Julia Quinn, an executive board member of Texas Law Students for Reproductive Justice, said the law makes it impossible for a woman to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion.

“The district court recognized in its ruling that the admitting privileges requirement served no medical purpose and had no relation to safety,” Quinn said. “We completely agree. The sad fact of the matter is that, because so many hospitals are affiliated with religious institutions, even highly qualified abortion practitioners will be denied admitting privileges on ideological grounds.”

On Oct. 31, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous ruling made by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, which declared two provisions of the abortion law unconstitutional. Although the plaintiff — Planned Parenthood and other organizations — asked the Supreme Court Monday to reinstate Yeakel’s ruling declaring parts of the law unconstitutional, the law will remain in effect until at least January 2014.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Danielle Wells said hospital admitting privileges are not necessary for an abortion to be safe.

“The Texas Hospital Association opposed this provision because it’s medically unnecessary,” Wells said. “It doesn’t help women. In fact, it hurts woman because it creates a barrier to safe medical care, so it’s clear that this provision was designed to limit a woman’s access to safe abortion and that it does nothing to protect the health and safety of women — just the opposite.”

Wells said although some providers are still open, the amount of abortions they will be able to provide may be reduced because some clinics may have some physicians without admitting privileges.

Faulkner said she supports the law because it will ultimately benefit women who have abortions.

“Pro-choicers call it a war on women, but really, it’s a war for women,” Faulkner said. “We are bettering the circumstances for women and their health. We’re not taking away abortion completely.”

Quinn said the law makes it unnecessarily difficult for women in Texas to obtain abortions because they will have to travel far distances to find an abortion provider.
“Austin still has clinics that offer abortion services, but at least one has stopped providing abortions in the wake of the law, making it more difficult for students to access abortion care,” Quinn said.

Planned Parenthood will use research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, headed by UT professor Joseph Potter, to justify a request for a preliminary injunction against a set of new abortion restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature in July.

Renee Paradis, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, said her client is challenging two provisions of the bill: strengthened restrictions on medication-induced abortions and new requirements for doctors who perform abortions to acquire admitting privileges from hospitals.

Potter’s research — which used information provided by the plaintiff — culminated in an expert report showing how the bill would affect Texas women. 

“Dr. Potter’s research has been extremely helpful,” Paradis said. “It has allowed [the plaintiff] to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the bill in its infringement upon the rights of women in Texas.”

Planned Parenthood’s official request for a preliminary injunction against the new bill included several citations of Potter’s research with the project. Referencing the “Potter Declaration” — a term the plaintiff uses to cite Potter’s research — the injunction states, “Out of the approximately 68,900 women who are expected to seek an abortion annually in Texas, a full 22,286 will not be able to do so because of the privileges law.” 

Danielle Wells, representative of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said the state of care for Texas women is already in jeopardy because the legislature cut funding for family planning programs by two-thirds in 2011. 

Wells said the decrease caused more than 70 female care centers to close and more than 130,000 women to lose access to basic preventative care such as cervical cancer screenings and birth control in addition to abortion services.

“I think it’s important to recognize that if this bill goes into effect, it will harm the women who are already suffering the most,” Wells said. 

Rachel Renier, Plan II Honors freshman, said she thinks there will always be a demand for abortions and closing clinics would lead to women turning to the “black market.” 

“At a certain socioeconomic level, I think abortions should be available and adding regulations isn’t the best way to prevent women from having abortions if they are really desperate,” Renier said. “I’m glad to see the research from UT contribute to the effort to fix the issues caused by these regulations.”

The project used a team of researchers from UT’s Population Research Center, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Ibis Reproductive Health, an international women’s health organization.