The last abortion clinic in Rio Grande Valley, an area in the poorest part of Texas, closed its doors on Thursday evening following new legal restrictions on abortion providers. To place the significance of this closure into context, the rate of self-induced abortions is apparently one of the highest in the country.
Two more clinics run by Whole Woman’s Health were also shuttered that same day.
“It’s heartbreaking for us,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, told The New York Times. The organization had previously challenged provisions of the law in court.
“It’s been a very difficult decision. I tried everything I can. I just can’t keep the doors open.”
There were 44 facilities that offered abortion care in Texas in 2011. But after the closings on Thursday, there are now just 19, ThinkProgress reported. According to Abortion Care Network, a national organization of independent abortion providers and allies, that number is predicted to drop to six once the new abortion law, which went into effect last fall, is fully implemented in September.
“Services will only be in the largest cities. There will be hundreds of miles without any safe abortion care,” Charlotte Taft, director of Abortion Care Network, said in a statement.
“With a population of nearly 27 million people, this is a state of emergency for Texas women.”
So, how exactly has Texas’ new abortion law sparked this recent wave of clinic closings?
It comes down to a series of controversial restrictions. For instance, abortion doctors are now required to secure admitting privileges from a local hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, a requirement that ThinkProgree reports is “often impossible to meet.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has also publicly opposed this requirement, which it says “singles out” abortion services from other outpatient procedures.
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Practicing without admitting practices puts doctors at risk of getting their medical licenses suspended. As a result, dozens of clinics were reportedly forced to stop their abortion services in the fall. Many of those shuttered facilities are based in communities with high rates of poverty and uninsurance, so an increasing number of Texas women have been left with no ready access to reproductive services.
And come September, another restriction enforced by the new state law will require clinics to make a series of expensive (and arguably unnecessary) renovations to bring their facilities up to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The requirement calls for changes like the widened hallways and water fountain installations.
With clinics facing an onslaught of suspended doctors and smaller patient loads, as well as upcoming new building codes, Hagstrom Miller of Whole Women’s Health recently told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that some clinic owners “simply don’t have the funds to remain open.”
Ultimately, those hit hardest by this new law and subsequent closings are the women of Texas.
“We didn’t change the amount of women in the community who are still going to need the service,” Hagstrom Miller said.
“We just blocked their access to getting it safely.”