Health & Human Services

State Records Show Little Need for Texas' New Abortion Law

In their successful push this summer for strict new regulations on abortion facilities and the doctors performing them, proponents of the legislation said it was needed because conditions at existing facilities made it unsafe for women seeking to terminate pregnancies.
by | September 16, 2013
 

In their successful push this summer for strict new regulations on abortion facilities and the doctors performing them, proponents of the legislation said it was needed because conditions at existing facilities made it unsafe for women seeking to terminate pregnancies.

But a Texas Tribune review of state inspection records for 36 abortion clinics from the year preceding the lawmakers’ vote turned up little evidence to suggest the facilities were putting patients in imminent danger. State auditors identified 19 regulatory violations that they said presented a risk to patient safety at six abortion clinics that are not ambulatory surgical centers in Texas. None was severe enough to warrant financial penalties, according to the Department of State Health Services, which deemed the facilities’ corrective action plans sufficient to protect patients.

And between 2008 and 2013, the Texas Medical Board, which regulates the state’s physicians, took action against just three doctors who performed abortions — all of them for administrative infractions that did not involve criminal practices or late-term abortions.

“The point of this legislation was to make abortion inaccessible. It wasn’t about safety,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive officer of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four abortion clinics and an ambulatory surgical center in Texas. “Because there is no safety problem around abortion in Texas.”

Abortion opponents vehemently disagree. They say the fact that more clinics and doctors have not been penalized only signals the need for tougher restrictions. They successfully convinced state lawmakers of that during the last legislative session: Beginning Oct. 29, Texas will ban all abortions after 20 weeks gestation and require abortion facilities to have a physician with active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. A year from now, additional rules will take effect requiring abortion facilities to meet the structural guidelines for ambulatory surgical centers — which include wider hallways and pre-operative and post-operative waiting rooms.

The Texas Tribune  |  The Texas Tribune

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