Why Texas’ New Abortion Restrictions Will Be So Devastating To Reproductive Access, In Two Maps

Pro-choice protesters rally in Austin (Credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

On Saturday, the Texas legislature gave final approval to stringent abortion restrictions that have sparked massive protests over the past several weeks. The sweeping anti-choice bill, which Gov. Rick Perry (R) will likely sign into law this week, criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks and threatens to shut down 90 percent of the abortion clinics in the state.

Texas’ new regulations will require clinics to adhere to the same standards as surgical centers, even though that won’t actually do anything to make abortion care safer. Perry has denied that the restrictions will lead clinics to close their doors — but abortion providers disagree, and warn they’ll be forced to shut down because they won’t be able to afford to make costly updates to their facilities.

As a map from the Texas Tribune illustrates, just a handful of locations (represented as yellow dots) will meet the requirements for “surgical centers” and be able to stay open. The clinics that will be forced to close (represented as blue dots) will leave huge swaths of Texas without any providers at all, particularly in the western half and northern edge of the state. The image of the remaining reproductive resources in the state — which is 773 miles wide and 790 miles long — is stark:

(Credit: Texas Tribune)

Now, consider this second map of Texas, which plots zip codes by average income level. It quickly becomes evident that the poorest areas of Texas (the counties that are the reddest) are the same areas that are about to lose access to abortion clinics under the proposed regulations. At the very edge of the Mexican border, low-income Texans will be forced to drive hundreds of miles across the Lone Star State to access the closest clinic. Many of them will likely forgo that long, expensive trek in favor of obtaining illegal abortion-inducing drugs from across the border, since unsafe reproductive care will be much more accessible to them than legal clinics:

(Credit: Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks)

Texas Democrats have already promised to bring a legal challenge against the impending anti-abortion law. Similar abortion restrictions have been blocked in other states, under the logic that these type of harsh regulations are impossible for clinics to meet and make it too difficult for women to access abortion care. But Texas falls under the jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has an extremely conservative record and has ruled against reproductive rights in the past.