Texas’ harsh anti-abortion law has claimed another victim, as a clinic in El Paso has been forced to immediately halt its abortion services. The Reproductive Services clinic attempted to seek an injunction against the provision of the law that requires abortion clinics to get admitting privileges from local hospitals — a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible to meet — but a federal judge denied that request.
The doctors who work at Reproductive Services used to have temporary admitting privileges that were supposed to be in effect until May. But earlier this month, the hospital unexpectedly revoked them with no explanation. The clinic was forced to stop offering abortions, and immediately canceled more than 30 scheduled appointments. Nonetheless, District Judge Lee Yeakel on Wednesday refused to grant the clinic a temporary injunction against that portion of the law.
The second clinic involved in the legal challenge, Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen, has already been forced to close. Wednesday’s ruling prevents it from being able to re-open.
The situation with Reproductive Services and Whole Women’s Health illustrates the arbitrary nature of admitting privilege requirements. When clinics must comply with this requirement, their ability to stay open is often left to the whims of hospitals. But some hospitals in conservative areas are wary to enter into official agreements with abortion providers because they don’t want to invite controversy — particularly since anti-choice activists sometimes target hospital employees, pressuring them to break ties with abortion clinics.
Lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that’s representing the abortion providers challenging Texas’ law, are also helping doctors file suit against hospitals that are denying these privileges for no good reason.
“Texas has put the constitutional rights of its women in the hands of biased hospital administrators. As a consequence, the list of high-quality abortion providers forced to turn away patients continues to grow, while reproductive health care options for Texas women continue to shrink,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, noted in a statement released on Thursday.
Now that Reproductive Services is no longer in business, some women who live in El Paso may be forced to cross the border into New Mexico to get to the nearest clinic. There’s another abortion clinic in El Paso, but it may not be prepared to handle a larger case load. Lawyers at the Center for Reproductive Rights argue that many El Paso residents are too impoverished to have the resources to make a trip across state lines.
As dozens of clinics across the state have been forced to close under Texas’ new law, this is becoming the new reality for women in the state. A 400 mile swath of the nation’s second largest state has now been left with no abortion clinics whatsoever. Reproductive health access has been virtually eliminated for many of Texas’ most vulnerable residents, who are increasingly resorting to illegal and unsafe methods of ending a pregnancy.
Reproductive rights advocates are frustrated that House Bill 2, which was enacted over the summer despite widespread protests, was cloaked in the language of women’s safety when it is actually undermining that goal.
“Forcing patients to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic does absolutely nothing to improve any ‘health or safety’ measures. In fact, it does exactly the opposite,” Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told ThinkProgress. “But we knew all along HB 2 was not about improving care, but making it inaccessible.”