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Texas Law Leaves Abortion Out of Reach for Many Women

Photo: Planned Parenthood, License: N/A

Planned Parenthood

Texas’ sweeping abortion law has already eliminated all abortion clinics south of San Antonio, and the last clinic west of the city is expected to close once the final piece of the law takes effect September 1. Under the new regulations, physicians who perform abortions must obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and abortion facilities are required to meet expensive ambulatory surgical center standards, the final piece of the law, a requirement that medical experts nationwide have deemed unnecessary.

Since last November, clinics have closed left and right statewide because of these restrictions, and some of San Antonio’s three remaining abortion providers have increased hours to serve not only local patients, but also women from the Rio Grande Valley and far West Texas. However, high travel costs keep most potential patients from getting here.

Amy Hagstrom Miller runs the Whole Woman’s Health abortion provider network in Texas. Right now, the San Antonio location is the only facility in the city operating an ambulatory surgical center, and it will remain open after September 1. McAllen’s Whole Woman’s Health closed last year, and since then, Miller said her organization has purchased 15 gas cards and bus tickets for women to travel the more than 200 miles to San Antonio. The McAllen clinic used to treat about 45 women weekly, she said, so she knows more need help.

“We’re here and ready, but the vast majority of women can’t add those travel costs to the cost of an abortion or they can’t take off work,” she said. “There will be access in San Antonio, but abortion becomes out of reach for so many women.”

According to research by the University of Texas’ Texas Policy Evaluation Project and California-based Ibis Reproductive Health, more than 930,000 Texas women will live more than 150 miles from an abortion facility come September 1, and will consequently have to travel should they need an abortion. In Texas, women are also required to get a sonogram 24 hours before their procedure, so any trip to another city would require an overnight stay.

Women living along the border often barely make enough money to survive let alone afford an overnight trip to another city. According to the Texas State Data Center, the median income for women living in border counties ranges from about $12,500 to $17,000 annually, which is well below the poverty level for a family of three and lower than the statewide average. Filling up a gas tank or buying a round-trip plane or bus ticket from McAllen to San Antonio is out of the question for those who rely on every dollar they earn. The rising cost of childcare, advocates say, also plays a role.

Still, some women make the trip. Dr. Alan Braid, of San Antonio’s Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, said more than half of the 150 patients he sees weekly are from McAllen, Corpus Christi and Midland-Odessa, all towns with no clinic.

“This law actually is going to make things more dangerous for women, because they will be putting off when they can come because of availability and distances that they have to travel,” he said. “If I sprained my ankle and I had to travel 300 miles round-trip to get treatment, I wouldn’t say that would be good medical care.”

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