New Year, Same Fight For Reproductive Rights
By Laila Khalili
Photo by Jane Nguyen
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is set to hear oral arguments today from the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing Texas abortion providers, and the Texas attorney general’s office, regarding a 2013 omnibus anti-abortion bill known as HB2. The court will determine if Texas can enforce an HB2 provision which requires all abortions to be performed in an ambulatory surgical center (ASC).
Proponents of the ASC requirement argue that it will somehow make women safer and improve the standards of abortion care. But don’t be fooled for one minute — these politicians do not care to make abortion safer. They want to make legal abortion disappear, which, if we can learn anything from our past, only forces women to get unsafe, back-alley abortions.
A vocal advocate for abortion access, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued an opinion in response to the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider, or TRAP, laws that have been cropping up all over the country. In their statement they denounce all the provisions of HB2, which also bans abortion at 20 weeks, requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, and restricts a doctor’s ability to prescribe abortion inducing drugs.
When HB2 first went into effect, only 8 of the original 41 abortion clinics in Texas remained, just as opponents to the legislation predicted. If the 5th Circuit rules in favor of the HB2 provision, several clinics will be forced to close, leaving 750,000 Texans at least 200 miles away from the nearest clinic.
The most recent development on HB2 restrictions came in October when the U.S. Supreme Court released an order barring Texas from enforcing the ASC requirement, allowing a handful of clinics to reopen in isolated areas of the state. There are currently 16 abortion clinics left to serve over five million Texans of reproductive age.
While the High Court’s decision is encouraging, it does little to abate concerns Texans have regarding further restrictions, particularly when the 5th Circuit panel has consistently ruled in favor of HB2.
Last March, in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. Abbott, the 5th Circuit upheld aspects of HB2 that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and restricts their ability to prescribe abortion inducing medication to their patients.
Twice in 2014 the 5th Circuit reversed rulings made by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin, who stated that HB2 is unconstitutional, putting an undue burden on Texans trying to access reproductive health care.
In the face of all the doubt, frustration and the occasional sense of hopelessness the fight for abortion rights give us, what can be done? Aside from voting people into office who won’t eliminate access to health care, you can help reduce the tremendous barriers Texans are currently facing and make access to abortion a little bit easier.
Abortion funds exist, and they provide grants to Texans who need help paying for their abortion. The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity serves the Houston area, among other parts of the state, but is only able to help a fraction of the people who call. If you can’t give money but can give time, these funds also need volunteers to continue operating.
With the start of the Texas 84th legislative session on January 13th, more legislation designed to limit abortion access will be sure to come up. To stay up to date on what is happening at the Texas Capitol regarding reproductive health care, follow NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
Laila is a native Houstonian who loves craft beer, political activism, and being outdoors.