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Texas Abortion Providers Fear They May Not Survive New Regulations

Photo: ALL PHOTOS BY CALLIE RICHMOND, License: N/A

ALL PHOTOS BY CALLIE RICHMOND

Dr. Lester Minto at his clinic in Harlingen, which provides preventative care as well as abortions

Photo: , License: N/A

Protestors outside of Reproductive Services of Harlingen


Related: As Abortion Clinic Closures Loom in Texas, A Look Back at How We Got Here

Dr. Lester Minto didn’t give up after receiving numerous death threats. He’s persevered through virulent verbal attacks from anti-choice picketers that protest outside his Rio Grande Valley abortion clinic every weekend. The 64-year-old forgoes a salary and has for some time. None of this deters Minto from aiding the largely low-income, mostly Latina women that walk through his doors. But soon, Minto will call it quits.

In July, conservative Texas lawmakers convened during a second special session to pass legislation severely restricting abortion access. House Bill 2 bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires patients to follow outdated FDA protocol when taking abortion-inducing drugs. It also demands that abortion doctors secure hospital admitting privileges and compels abortion clinics to comply with the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs)—stipulations that will force Minto to shutter his clinic after more than 30 years in practice and turn away the roughly 2,000 women he sees for preventative care and/or abortion services on an annual basis.

“I’ll have to close the clinic and sell off the building,” said Minto. “Financially, I can’t afford to keep it open.”

He’s far from alone. Reproductive health care experts estimate 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics will close as a result of the legislation, leaving just five centers located in four major cities to serve the entire state. For San Antonio, that could mean only one center would stay afloat. With just three other non-ASC abortion providers in the region, that lone clinic may very well serve all of South Texas.

Considering costs associated with travel, the sweeping restrictions disproportionately burden low-income women living in already underserved areas and increase the prospects of dangerous abortion methods, like obtaining unsupervised, black-market medication.

Opposed by major medical organizations such as the Texas Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the bill was propped up by the anti-choice community who offered negligible evidence or scientific fact of its ability to strengthen women’s health and safety, despite claiming that was their compassionate concern. While a potential lawsuit challenging the legislation looms, health care providers are scrambling to comply with regulations they say won’t help patient care. In the end, the cumulative effect of the legislation is expected to substantially erode safe, legal abortion care in Texas. To many skeptical followers of the issue, that’s exactly the point.

Crafted to ‘Shut Us Down’

Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, oversees five abortion and reproductive care clinics, one of which is an ASC in San Antonio. Hagstrom Miller testified before the Texas Legislature during the abortion debate to seemingly deaf ears, assuring lawmakers the millions of dollars needed to comply with ASC standards in no way improve women’s care or safety. In fact, it would produce the opposite effect placing, “more women at risk for later term abortions or for illicit abortions outside the medical community” as health care providers disappear, unable to shoulder the extra costs.

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