Abortion Clinics Begin Reopening in Texas Nearly a Year After Supreme Court Ruling

by | May 3, 2017 AT 2:00 PM

By Chuck Lindell

Three Texas abortion facilities have reopened or are about to reopen, reversing a trend of clinic closures caused by strict abortion regulations that the Legislature adopted in 2013 but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last summer.

A Dallas clinic, closed in 2013 because doctors with the North Park Medical Group could not obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital as required by the now-overturned state regulations, has been providing abortions since quietly reopening in late February.

Whole Woman's Health reopened its Austin clinic with greater fanfare on Friday, using the occasion to celebrate its success in leading the legal challenge against the regulations in House Bill 2, passed during the second of two tumultuous special legislative sessions in 2013.

The clinic reopened in the same Northeast Austin location that Whole Woman's Health closed in 2014.

"Austin is where Whole Woman's Health got our start in 2003, and we are grateful that our win in the Supreme Court last year on behalf of all Texans has allowed us to take the lead in reopening Texas clinics," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of Whole Woman's Health.

A second Texas regulation, also struck down by the Supreme Court, would have required all abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers. Whole Woman's Health closed its Austin clinic after architects estimated that it would have cost $1.5 million to $2 million to renovate the site into a hospital-like setting.

A third clinic in Waco, shut down by Planned Parenthood after the passage of HB 2, will reopen "very soon," said Sarah Wheat with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

"We've been working on staff hiring and training, ordering medical equipment, things like that," Wheat said.

When the Waco clinic opens, there will be 21 abortion facilities licensed in Texas -- 13 clinics and eight ambulatory surgical centers.

That, however, is still far below the 42 abortion facilities that were licensed when then-Gov. Rick Perry signed HB 2 into law in July 2013.

Most of the clinics closed because of the admitting privileges rule that went into effect in 2013. The surgical center regulation was in place only briefly in 2014 before the Supreme Court halted enforcement while it considered an appeal by Whole Woman's Health and other state abortion providers.

The Supreme Court struck down the admitting privileges and surgical center regulations on June 27, 2016, ruling they combined to place an unconstitutional burden on women seeking an abortion. The 5-3 ruling rejected arguments from state officials who said the rules were intended to protect the health and safety of women.

(c)2017 Austin American-Statesman, Texas