The author of a Texas senate bill that would require abortion clinics to meet the “minimum standards” required to operate as ambulatory surgical centers [ASC's] said Tuesday that he didn’t believe the bill would result in the closure of any abortion-providing facilities, or reduce access to safe, legal abortion care for Texans.
Texas currently has five abortion providers operating as ambulatory surgical centers, and Sen. Bob Deuell, the sponsor of SB 537, said he “just cannot buy the assumption that all these other clinics are going to close.”
If that’s the case, Deuell was either lying, or he has been in extremely limited contact with his Republican and conservative colleagues across the nation, who are proposing a variety of medically-unnecessary technical regulations intended specifically to shutter abortion clinics.
Deuell opened today’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting by advising opponents of his bill that they would “basically [be] stating that they think women who make the decision to have an abortion should not have the very, very best in medical care.”
Legal abortion is one of the safest, most common medical procedures performed in the country; less than 0.5 percent of all medical and aspiration abortions carried out before 13 weeks result in “serious complications.”
“If the present system is not broke, does it need fixing?” asked Dr. Robert Prince, an ob-gyn practicing in Dallas-Fort Worth, who testified before the committee that he remembered the “carnage” before Roe v. Wade.
Complications from abortion increase with gestational stage. Though second trimester abortions in the United States are very safe, a first-trimester abortion is nonetheless safer than a second trimester abortion. The safety of early abortion is one of the reasons opponents of the bill—which will reduce access and therefore lead to delays—say it would make abortion less, not more, safe for Texans. With just a handful of clinics operating in Texas’ urban centers, rural and suburban women would have to wait longer and travel farther to get abortions that were previously available close to home.
The ultimate fear, and one that is all too real for doctors who remember practicing before the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, is that women will resort to unsafe, illegal procedures when they cannot access the safe, legal abortion care to which they previously had access.
Opponents of the bill also said that the proposed medically unnecessary requirements—which include widening hallways and doorways, making plumbing and electrical modifications, and installing different air filtration systems—would do little to increase the safety of Texans seeking abortions, and would be cost-prohibitive for most abortion clinics, which are already providing safe medical care.
“If this bill passes, the ability of women to get abortions is going to be very limited,” testified Betty Pettigrew, an abortion clinic director in Dallas. “There are five ASC’s right now. Our clinic would close, and so would several others in Dallas.”
Despite testimony from Pettigrew and other clinic workers, Deuell insisted that the intent of his bill was not for any clinics to close.
“This bill is not intended to decrease abortions or to close any clinic that does abortions,” said Deuell.
Among the many requirements for ambulatory surgical centers is that they be staffed by a doctor with hospital admitting privileges, a stipulation that legislators in Mississippi are using to shut down the state’s single remaining abortion clinic. Similar legislation has been proposed in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania, and most recently in Alabama.
Citing the multitude of states attempting to pass, and passing, abortion clinic regulations, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ legislative counsel, Blake Rocap, challenged Deuell’s assertion that he had no intention of shutting down any clinics via his legislation.
“For him not to believe that, it’s disingenuous,” Rocap told RH Reality Check. “That may not be his intent, but you can’t escape the effects of what you’re doing just because that’s not your intent.”