New Texas Anti-Abortion Law Claims First Victim in Houston
By Brittney Martin
For the first time under Texas' new abortion law, the state has penalized a clinic and a doctor for failing to meet requirements. The Department of State Health Services revoked the license of A Affordable Women's Medical Center in Houston after finding that the clinic's only provider of abortions, Dr. Theodore M. Herring Jr., did not have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
In addition, the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended Herring's medical license, pending further action.
A provision of the new law, which took effect Nov. 1, requires physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic and to follow federal protocols when administering abortion-inducing medication.
The penalties, announced last week, come as the Senate Health and Human Services Committee gears up to examine the availability of contraception and women's health care in the state.
Two years ago, the state slashed funding to the programs for poor women and blocked Planned Parenthood, a major provider, from providing state funds.
The Legislature restored some funding last year, as it also passed the sweeping abortion restrictions.
In a written statement, the Texas Medical Board said Herring performed 268 abortions in a three-month span.
"We conducted an on-site complaint investigation in December and discovered the violations," said Health Services Department spokeswoman Carrie Williams. "On a revisit later that month, we found that the facility was still in violation, which led to us immediately revoking its license."
Kyleen Wright, president of the anti-abortion group Texans for Life, said more physicians in Texas are breaking the law.
"We're thrilled that the state is doing its job, and we expect more to come," Wright said.
The Texas Medical Board and the health services department couldn't confirm whether the state is investigating other clinics, citing confidentiality laws relating to open investigations. Williams said the Houston clinic could be relicensed if it meets state requirements.
More than 40 percent of the state's 37 abortion clinics had to stop performing abortions when the admitting privileges requirement took effect. Since November, five of the 16 shuttered clinics have reopened after obtaining hospital privileges for their doctors, according to data provided by NARAL Texas, an abortion-rights advocate.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women's Health, which operated five abortion clinics before the law went into effect, said she was able to reopen her clinics in Fort Worth and San Antonio. Her clinic in McAllen remains closed for abortion services.
"Of my four sites that are open, three of them only have one doctor with privileges," Miller said. "So even though we're 'open,' it's really difficult to meet the need in the community because I used to have a few doctors on my team."
The 5th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to go into effect while a lawsuit challenging the admitting privileges and medication protocols is pending. Under another provision of the law, clinics will be required to meet the same standards as surgical centers in September. Miller said only six clinics in the state qualify so far.
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