More than a dozen health care providers in Texas have joined forces to file a lawsuit against new abortion restrictions that the state legislature enacted this summer. The reproductive health advocates are asking a federal court to block two separate provisions of House Bill 2, the anti-choice law that inspired massive protests at the state capitol and captured national attention after Sen. Wendy Davis (D) filibustered it for 11 hours.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a Texas law firm are all partnering on the legal challenge. If they’re not successful, HB 2 will take effect in its entirety on October 29.
The women’s health groups are trying to block what they see as the most harmful portions of the sweeping new law. Their challenge specifically concerns the provision that will require abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals — an unnecessary requirement that has been blocked from taking effect in other states — as well as the provision that requires doctors to adhere to an outdated protocol for administering the abortion pill.
“Any one of these restrictions would have a devastating impact across the state of Texas,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, noted in a statement. “Together they would be catastrophic.”
Under HB 2, it’s estimated that 90 percent of the abortion clinics in Texas will be forced to close their doors. In fact, in anticipation of the burdensome new requirements, some clinics have already started shutting down. And the latest round of clinic closures follows the overall shrinking of women’s health services in Texas over the past several years. Under Gov. Rick Perry (R), the state has already slashed family planning funds and defunded Planned Parenthood, which has forced dozens of formerly state-funded clinics to contract their services.
The situation in Texas reflects a broader national trend, as abortion clinics across the country have been forced out of business at a record-breaking pace. “This law is part of a coordinated national strategy to shut down women’s health centers and outlaw abortion all across the country,” Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, pointed out in a statement.
Women’s health experts have warned that low-income women in Texas, who already struggle to access abortion services, will have even fewer options under HB 2. They expect an increasing number of people to seek illegal abortion care across the border in Mexico. They’re particularly worried about potentially dangerous “flea market abortions,” as desperate women turn to the black market to purchase abortion-inducing herbal remedies.
“If this law goes into effect, there is no doubt it will end access to safe and legal abortion for many women, leaving some to resort to desperate and dangerous measures,” Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards said. “We won’t let that happen.”