Thanks to the stringent abortion restrictions that the Texas legislature enacted this summer, thousands of women in the Lone Star State will be unable to access reproductive care over the upcoming year, according to a new study from the University of Texas. Researchers estimated that decreased access to abortion clinics will result in about 22,286 Texas women left unable to legally terminate a pregnancy — which works out to be about one in every three women trying to get an abortion.
The research is part of the Texas Evaluation Project, a three-year study that seeks to investigate the implications of the mounting pile of state laws restricting abortion and slashing family planning funds. The results were submitted to federal court this week by a group of reproductive rights advocates who are hoping to block the newest law from taking effect.
Texas’ most recent attack on abortion rights — which inspired massive grassroots protests for weeks, and ultimately led to Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D) famous filibuster — requires providers to gain admitting privileges from local hospitals. That medically unnecessary policy has already been blocked in several other states.
UT sociology professor Joseph Potter, who led the new research project, explained to the court that many abortion clinics won’t be able to comply with the admitting privilege requirement. Potter and his fellow researchers estimate that more than one-third of the state’s clinics will be forced to close, while others will have to “severely” cut their services. Seven counties in Texas — Travis, Bexar, Harris, Dallas, El Paso, Jefferson and Nueces — will be left without a single abortion clinic at all.
Using recent state data, the researchers estimated that the closures will force significantly more women to drive more than 100 miles to access abortion services. In 2011, 2,440 women had to make a trip that was longer than 100 miles to get to a clinic. But under the new law, that number will rise to nearly 6,000 women.
Once it’s significantly harder to get to a clinic, that will “present an insurmountable obstacle to some Texas women seeking an abortion,” Potter writes. Previous research from the Texas Evaluation Project has confirmed that low-income women often can’t afford the time or money that it takes to travel to a clinic. Combined with the other barriers that economically disadvantaged women face, fewer clinics will ultimately result in fewer women being able to access safe and legal reproductive health care.
Women’s health experts have been warning about the negative impacts of Texas’ new restrictions for months. In order to make a similar point about just how difficult it will be to access reproductive care in the Lone Star State, three women recently announced they’re producing a new video game that will challenge users to navigate Texas’ harsh new law and attempt to successfully get an abortion. Health providers in the state expect an increasing number of poor women to cross the border into Mexico to seek out illegal abortion care.