July 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Opponents of Texas’ late-term abortion ban bill, which passed the state Senate Friday evening after heated debate, say they fear that the legislation could lead to the closure of dozens of clinics in the state.
In addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks, the bill also mandates that clinics meet the same safety standards as outpatient surgical centers. Currently 37 of the state’s 42 clinics fail to the meet these standards, meaning they will be required to make costly updates to their buildings, such as installing wider hallways, showers, and backup generators.
Sen. Wendy Davis, who famously filibustered the first version of the bill last month, lamented in an op-ed on CNN last week that the bill "would close down almost 90 percent of the women's clinics in this state."
Dr. Howard Novick, who owns an abortion facility in Houston, told the Associated Press that he estimates it will cost between $1 and $1.5 million to update his facility – money that he says he doesn’t have.
Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, cited similar figures, saying it would cost an estimated $1.4 million to update their McAllen facility, which she says she cannot afford. She adds that another facility she runs in Beaumont would also have to close.
Pro-life activist Abby Johnson, a former Texas Planned Parenthood clinic manager, said that while she believes the new regulations are critical for protecting women’s safety, she would be thrilled if they do have the secondary effect of closing abortion clinics.
“These are things that are really necessary,” she told LifeSiteNews.com in a telephone interview. “Yes, it’s going to be a burden on these facilities, but it’s necessary if they’re going to really claim that they want women to be safe.”
However, she added, “I want abortion to go away. I want these abortion clinics to shut down.”
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Johnson said that clinics could also have difficulties meeting other safety requirements of the bill, including that abortionists have hospital admitting privileges and follow FDA guidelines in administering medical abortions, i.e., abortions induced by a pill such as RU-486. The latter section is designed to shut down so-called "telemed" abortions, during which abortionists administer dangerous abortion drugs from a remote location using a webcam. Instead, the abortionists will be required to meet personally with the woman throughout the abortion process.
For Johnson the battle is deeply personal. Just last week she learned that her former clinic has stopped doing surgical abortions, thanks to the state’s recently enacted ultrasound law. Now, she says, the facility is likely to have to cease medical abortions due to the regulations in the newest bill, something that could push the clinic "over the edge" and force it to shut down.
However, any office closures in response to the bill, which Governor Rick Perry has vowed to sign into law, are unlikely to materialize for some time, as opponents have vowed to sue to block the regulations from going into effect.
Dire predictions of mass abortion facility closures by abortion activists in other states have been wildly exaggerated, a fact cited by the bill's key sponsor during debate Friday afternoon.
When a similar law passed in Virginia, opponents had warned that as many as 17 of the state’s 21 clinics could shut down. However, no such mass closings materialized, although just today news broke that the state’s busiest clinic has closed, citing the law as the reason.
Gov. Perry himself responded to warnings about likely closures in Texas, saying they are inaccurate.
“I don’t agree with her premise or her numbers,” Perry said in response to Sen. Wendy Davis’ claim that the bill could only leave five functioning clinics in the state. “History will prove she’s wrong by asserting that.”