Legal Abortion Care Ends at Another Texas Clinic After Hospital Revokes Privileges Without Notice


Another Texas clinic has stopped providing abortion care, this time in West Texas. On Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Austin declined to grant an El Paso doctor a temporary restraining order against HB 2, the Texas law that, among other things, requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The restraining order would have allowed one El Paso clinic, and one clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, to reopen and provide legal abortions.

Dr. Pamela Richter, who is one of a group of abortion providers who filed suit against the State of Texas in early April, had asked the court for a temporary restraining order against the admitting privileges provision of HB 2 after discovering her temporary admitting privileges had been revoked, without notice, by Foundation Surgical Hospital of El Paso.

Judge Lee Yeakel—who also heard an earlier suit concerning HB 2, Planned Parenthood v. Texas, last fall—said that while he believed “irreparable harm” would be caused to El Pasoans who could not obtain legal abortion care at Reproductive Services, the plaintiffs did not fulfill all parts of the four-pronged legal test for granting temporary restraining orders.

A deputy attorney general representing the state argued that the one million people who live in the El Paso area could visit the one remaining El Paso clinic, or travel across state lines to New Mexico—where abortion providers are not required to have admitting privileges—to obtain abortions.

“There’s one clinic to service approximately one million people, and there are no driving time issues” in El Paso, argued Jimmy Blacklock, referencing the 150-mile drive that residents of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley must make to obtain legal abortion care after both clinics there closed earlier this year.

According to court documents, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) informed Reproductive Services’ Dr. Richter in a letter dated April 1 that she was not in compliance with HB 2 because she lacked hospital admitting privileges; when Richter responded that she had temporary admitting privileges at Foundation, DSHS replied that it was “the agency’s view that Dr. Richter’s temporary admitting privileges did not satisfy the admitting privileges requirement.”

But attorneys for Reproductive Services subsequently discovered, after contacting Foundation directly, that “the hospital would no longer honor those admitting privileges” at all as of April 11. In court on Wednesday, one of Richter’s attorneys said that “no explanation was provided as to why” the doctor’s privileges had been revoked. Reproductive Services immediately ceased providing abortions, canceling more than 30 scheduled appointments.

“At no time were they providing abortions with the knowledge that Dr. Richter did not have admitting privileges,” said Stephanie Toti, counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing the plaintiffs.

Attorneys for Dr. Richter say she has performed about 17,000 legal abortion procedures in the last decade at Reproductive Services, none of which required a hospital transfer due to complications.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and owner of the Rio Grande Valley Whole Woman’s clinic that closed in March, said at the downtown Austin courthouse on Wednesday afternoon that she could have reopened her clinic had Judge Yeakel issued the temporary restraining order (TRO).

“If we were to get a TRO, we would have reopened,” said Hagstrom Miller. Despite months of effort since the admitting privileges provision of HB 2 went into effect on November 1, 2013, Hagstrom Miller has been unable to find a hospital willing to grant her doctors who provide abortions with admitting privileges in the Valley.

In court documents, abortion providers say that “pressure from abortion opponents” has prompted Texas hospitals to revoke admitting privileges to doctors who provide abortions. Others, like Hagstrom Miller’s physician in the Rio Grande Valley, have been unable even to obtain applications for admitting privileges from local hospitals in their deeply socially conservative communities.

“No path is open to us,” she said.

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  • fiona64

    “No driving time issues”? Yeah, maybe if you have an automobile … and can take time off from work … and can pay for 300 miles’ worth of gas … and a whole slew of other things that are involved.

    As always, the privileged will still be able to obtain services and the underprivileged will not.

    Feh.

    • Jennifer Starr

      And then when women do find ways to help other women to get to clinics some distance away, the anti-choicers get hysterical and accuse them of ‘trying to skirt state law’.

      • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

        Want to bet they try to make it a crime?

        • Jennifer Starr

          They actually attempted something like that in 2006 in Ohio: http: //www. dailykos. com/story/2006/04/18/203122/-Ohio-bill-makes-crossing-state-lines-for-abortion-a-felony

          • expect_resistance

            That is not good. We need to watch out for any proposed legislation like this.

          • Shan

            HOWINF*CK..!?

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            Earnest little buggers.

          • lady_black

            Of course, that would be blatantly unconstitutional.

        • Kris Weibel

          I am not taking that bet because I believe that will be next, however, RvW is still constitutional. They will have to overturn that first and make it criminal second.

        • lady_black

          THAT would be unconstitutional and unenforceable. No bones about it. And I would do it ANYWAY. I’m not afraid of jail.

      • Ella Warnock

        They do come unglued when people assist women in accessing completely
        legal abortion care. No one is skirting the law; they’re simply
        traveling to another location where abortion is legal. The only way they
        can affect that situation is to pass laws that greatly restrict women’s
        freedom of movement and association. That’s exactly what they’ll try to
        do.

      • Ella Warnock

        I wrote my reply before I saw your dailykos link. That’s really horrifying.

      • lady_black

        Yeah? If I lived in Texas, I’d be filling my car and driving women to clinics five days a week. It is NOT in any way, shape or form, “skirting state law.”

  • blfdjlj

    Rick Perry will probably turn the abortion clinic into a mass execution center.

    • Paisley Jones

      Ironic statement, since it already is a mass execution center.

      • Jennifer Starr

        No.

      • blfdjlj

        No it’s not. Tiny zygotes do not take precedence over women’s lives. It’s clear by now that Texas Republicans are not motivated by defending life, but by imposing their puritanical sexual views on everyone else.

        • Kris Weibel

          You are 100% correct.

      • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

        Drama Queen.
        FBI LOOK SHARP. This is the Roeder personality.

  • Lori Trueblood

    What is going to happen now? Doctor’s move across the border in to Mexico. I hope they do.

  • rogerrramjet

    The sad thing is if someone were to open a free bus transport or some sort of free transport to the clinics across the border, the murderous anti choicers would find a way to get the legislators to make a law making it illegal or per their usual tactics start bombing the buses, or get their people to sabotage the buses by destroying the tires, or gas tanks or engines or some sort of vandalism.

    I think an appropriate sentence for anti choicers is life in prison for doing any of the above to stop women from choosing their own path in life.

    • Lieutenant Nun

      Yep they have already complained about it, casting the women and those who help them as dangerous criminals.

      • lady_black

        I call them heroes, and if I lived in Texass, I’d be driving five days a week.

  • Kris Weibel

    Aborting a zygote (not a person) is a personal medical decision, not a political debate. What the Texas Taliban has done is reprehensible. Forced rape (mandatory sonogram) now this is outrageous. HELLO women of Texas where the hell are your (choice) voices against MEN forcing extreme (personal) religious on you??

  • red_zone

    I have sincerely high hopes that this far-reaching, destructive law will be brought before federal court-if not the Supreme Court-and will be overturned due to it’s unconstitutional nature and the overwhelming burden it places onto women in poverty.

    Until then , I can only shake my head.

  • Ivy Mike

    This was the intent from day one.

  • Suba gunawardana

    Time to start a non-profit that provides “abortion trips for the needy”, to blue states or Canada.

  • TheBrett

    So much for respecting the “undue burden” clause. Not that a restraining order from Yeakel would have meant much anyways, since the mouth-breathers on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana would have flipped it at the first opportunity.

    Looks like it’s going to be Latin America 2.0 for the people living in the Rio Grande Valley. If you’re rich, you drive/fly somewhere or get a doctor to surreptitiously perform an abortion. If you’re poor, you take your chances with Misoprostol sold in Mexico or online, and hope you got the dosage right. At least there’s an app for that now.