Texas has suspended the medical license of an abortion doctor who failed to comply with the strict regulations under the state’s new omnibus anti-abortion law. Dr. Theodore Herring, a medical professional who has been licensed for nearly 40 years, has been deemed a threat to public health. He’s the first doctor who faces disciplinary action over failing to comply with harsh and unnecessary new requirements that went into effect in November.
Texas’ new law requires abortion doctors to enter into a partnership with a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, just in case one of their patients experiences serious complications from an abortion procedure and needs to be transferred there. But many abortion providers, including Herring, have struggled to find hospitals that are willing to partner with them.
Herring continued to provide abortion care even though he was unable to get admitting privileges. Now, according to the state, the procedures he performed after November are considered to be illegal. The Texas Medical Board announced Herring’s suspension on Friday, saying that he would “pose a threat to public welfare” by continuing to practice medical care. The state’s health department also revoked the license of Herring’s Houston-area abortion clinic, forcing it to immediately shut down.
In reality, however, forcing doctors to get admitting privileges is a totally unnecessary policy that has no impact on patient safety.
Abortion is already an incredibly safe procedure, and practically never requires hospital transfers in the first place. The rate of complications from abortion that are serious enough to require hospitalization is estimated at just 0.5 percent. In Texas specifically, state health data stretching back several years proves that abortion clinics in the Lone Star State are already highly regulated, and patients are not experiencing serious health complications.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t support these type of laws, pointing out that it doesn’t make sense to hold abortion to a higher standard than other types of outpatient medical procedures.
Texas’ new abortion law has left clinics scrambling, since they can no longer rely on doctors who don’t have admitting privileges. Some have already been forced to close, while others have scaled back their services. Since doctors can’t travel outside the 30-mile radius of the hospital where they have privileges, they’re no longer able to provide care at multiple clinics in the state. The clinics that have remained open now have huge patient loads. An estimated 22,000 women in the state will lack access to safe, legal abortion this year — and likely resort to dangerous methods.
That hasn’t stopped abortion opponents in the state from continuing to claim that admitting privileges are about patient safety. Texas Right to Life praised the state’s decision to suspend Herring’s license, and called on the health board to crack down on more doctors. “Dr. Herring is not the only abortionist practicing illegally in Texas,” the right-wing group said.
Herring did attempt to comply with the new state law. He submitted a plan to state officials detailing his progress in obtaining admitting privileges, but his plan was deemed “insufficient.”