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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


She continued, “It’s a perfectly designed Catch-22 in numerous ways.”

That goes double for religiously affiliated institutions. Securing admitting privileges at a religious hospital in rural Texas within 90 days notice is “next to impossible,” claims Hagstrom Miller. Minto knows that scenario all too well. The closest provider, Harlingen Valley Baptist Medical Center, would likely not admit him and even if they did, it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort for such infrequent admissions, he says.

“Many hospitals don’t take kindly to abortion doctors, we are kind of seen as the outcasts among physicians,” said Minto.

Separately, the provisions of the law are anticipated to corrode abortion access in Texas, but when working in tandem, the results are exponentially destructive.

“It’s no exaggeration that we’re going to go down from 42 sites to five—maybe,” said Hagstrom Miller. “It’s actually going to be less than five, with a combination of admitting privileges, the 20-week ban and ASC requirements … What’s really being crafted here is a perfect storm for those of us who have provided safe abortion care over the last 40 years.”

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

In a state that claims the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the nation—for the fifth straight year, according to a Gallup report—resources like the Lilith Fund are oftentimes the only option for abortion-seeking women. The non-profit provides direct financial assistance to women unable to pay for abortion, serving more than 1,000 clients in 2012.

Though that figure set a record for the organization last year, it represents only one-third of the women who solicited the fund for aid, says Lindsay Rodriguez, San Antonio-based Lilith Fund board of directors member and president-elect. The Fund was unable to assist the other two-thirds. With the widely expected closure of all clinics west of I-35, Rodriguez grapples with the prospect of a massive surge in clients, as costs to obtain an abortion legally rise as women factor in other expenses, like transportation, lodging and securing child care. “The laws are going to be so devastating, it’s hard to foresee how the full impact is going to play out,” she said from her San Antonio satellite office.

Researchers with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), a three-year study exploring the consequences of the State’s cuts to reproductive health funding, examined the potential on-the-ground effects of the ASC transition in smaller, underserved areas. With 80 percent of the state’s population living outside of the cities where ASCs are located—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin—the majority of Texas women seeking an abortion will likely need to take off work or school and travel long distances, spending increased time and money.

Rodriguez says today about 25 percent of the non-profit’s clients travel to SA clinics from surrounding towns, a figure likely to grow when the law is enacted. TxPEP found that the next closest ASC for women in El Paso, where the only two abortion providers do not meet ASC standards, is in San Antonio—a 560-mile trip and 32 hours of travel time cumulatively. Likewise, the nearest ASC for women living in the lower Rio Grande Valley is in San Antonio, meaning women in McAllen would need to travel roughly 235 miles and women in Harlingen would have to venture some 250 miles to obtain an abortion, tacking on about 16 hours of travel time to obtain the procedure over two visits, researchers noted.

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