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Texas Abortion Providers Fear They May Not Survive New Regulations



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

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Protestors outside of Reproductive Services of Harlingen

Those travel times could double, as some women, unable to stay overnight in the city, may actually be forced to make up to four visits to San Antonio. Aside from the state-mandated ultrasound women must undergo 24 hours prior to the abortion procedure as per a controversial 2011 state law (which drops to two hours’ wait time if the woman lives more than 100 miles away from the nearest abortion provider), the bill forces women to physically return to the doctor’s office for their second dose of abortion medication—a rule major health groups argue is outdated and harmful to women. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynocologists-Texas write the stipulation, “increases the risk of [the woman] not being able to return—this increases the chance for hemorrhage, blood transfusion and emergent D&C [uterine tissue scraping].” The Texas Medical Association came down on this part of the omnibus bill as well, writing it would set, “a dangerous precedent” for legislating the practice of medicine. A final follow-up visit is required not more than 14 days after the drug is administered or used, bringing the potential number of visits to four.

While public transit is available, albeit not highly connected, to Valley residents, connectivity in smaller communities and to colonias is, “sparse to non-existent,” a 2012 national transportation non-profit analysis reported.

Atop the weak transit network, transportation costs aren’t easy to come by for Valley women, who are among some of the poorest not only in the state but the country. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the area is one of the most impoverished nationwide, with a median family income of about $32,000 and 35 percent of households living below the federal poverty line.

“Overwhelmingly, this bill hurts low-income women,” declared Rodriguez, who says her organization is in the process of examining a new business model to determine if the Fund can also subsidize those transportation costs. “Women of means even before Roe v. Wade always had the option to go where it’s easier or where it’s legal, but the people that this really hurts will be the ones who don’t have things like extra money, paid time off or health benefits. And that’s cruel and unfair.”

While anti-choice lawmakers and activists often construct a false profile of an irresponsible party girl as the face of abortion-seeking women, the majority of women obtaining abortion are in their 20s and are mothers. According to Guttmacher, six in 10 U.S. women receiving an abortion already have a child and more than three in 10 have two or more children. Three-fourths of these women say the reason they abort is because they cannot afford a child.

The clients Rodriguez hears from fit this profile. “Most people that call us in San Antonio and farther south are already parents and cite financial instability as the reason for needing to get an abortion,” she says. “The women we talk to are ones that ask themselves if they could possibly put off buying groceries for the next few weeks so they can afford an abortion.”

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