By Mark Richardson, Texas News Service
AUSTIN – New research shows restrictions placed on Texas clinics that perform abortions are causing significant barriers and hardships for women seeking those services.
A study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project says more than half of the clinics that provided abortion services in Texas have closed since House Bill 2 went into effect in 2013.
Liza Fuentes, a co-researcher on the study, says they interviewed almost 400 women seeking abortion services between May and August of 2014.
“We were really able to provide some research on multiple obstacles that haven’t been well measured before,” says Fuentes. “Everything from increased travel distances to out-of-pocket expenses, to women’s own assessment of difficulties.”
House Bill 2, passed by the Texas Legislature in July 2013, requires abortion clinics meet ambulatory surgical center standards, and that their doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
It also limits abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Fuentes says of the 41 clinics that existed before the law was passed, only 19 remained open a year later.
She adds among the women surveyed, by mid-2014, the average travel distance to a clinic was 85 miles. That, and longer waits to schedule services, meant many women were having abortions much later in their pregnancies.
“The delays and later abortion are concerning, because they’re more expensive for women,” says Fuentes. “And, even though abortion is one of the most common and safest medical procedures in the United States, later abortion still does carry risk.”
The constitutionality of HB2 has been challenged in the courts and is awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project is a program of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.