Abortion Clinics Stay Open: But What’s Texas Missing?
Almost 40 abortion clinics in Texas were forced to close due to legal changes in Texas’ clinic requirements, according to NPR, which demanded expensive improvements beyond what most were capable of implementing, and beyond what many considered medically necessary. Following the law’s passage, clinics took it to court where a federal judge struck certain restrictive measures down in August, but the ruling was in turn cut down by the federal court of appeals, leaving clinics no other route than the Supreme Court to remain open while the federal appeals court make further decisions. Tuesday saw a 6 to 3 Supreme Court ruling temporarily on the side of the clinics, though the legal battle is far from over.
The law, which is one of the most aggressively demanding, would leave many women without easily accessible clinics, but by freezing certain parts of the law, the Court has ensured that 13 of the otherwise shut down clinics will be able to remain open. Proponents of the law argue that the restrictions are important for ensuring women are treated by capable facilities, but opponents argue the measures are simply a means to reduce accessibility to abortion procedures.
“Today, the Supreme Court ruled that Greg Abbott (Texas’ attorney general) cannot force nearly a million Texas women to drive over 300 miles to access their constitutionally protected right to safe and legal abortion,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, the executive director of Planned Parenthood’s political action committee in Texas, according to The New York Times. Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for Abbot, told The NYT that, “The attorney general’s office will continue to defend the law, just as we defend all state laws when they are challenged in court.”
“This does not protect the health and safety of women who are undergoing abortion,” said Joe Pojman, executive direction of Texas Alliance for Life, to The Huffington Post. “This is definitely a short-term loss, but not necessarily a long-term loss.”
While Pojman and others argue that women’s health is the priority, it’s arguable that reduced access to an abortion option creates a myriad of major risks for women. The University of California’s ANSIRH research group is working on the ongoing Turnaway Study, longitudinal research that looks into the effects of unwanted pregnancies on women in various circumstances. “Much of the existing work uses inappropriate comparisons groups — comparing, for example, women who obtain abortions with those who continue their pregnancies to term by choice. Such comparisons are inherently biased and paint a distorted picture of life following an elective abortion or pregnancy continuation,” the group explains.
While the group doesn’t have a large amount of results yet as the study is still ongoing, it does point to key areas where research is lacking, and where proponents of abortion-limiting measures may be missing important aspects. For example, women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have a tendency to know they’re pregnant later into their gestational timeline. Given the limited window women in Texas have to obtain an abortion if they so chose, this means women from lower income bracket have even less time to schedule and receive the procedure — an effort likely exacerbated by the need to save, earn, or obtain money to do pay for an abortion.
Consider the added strain of a difficult to reach clinic, meaning added travel time and funds would be necessary for women in Texas, and there’s a very clear accessibility issue for women in poverty. This ultimately makes access to important health services dependent upon position in the social strata, and ensures a cycle of poverty for women who cannot afford a child. This makes the Texas state argument against blocking the over-rigorous clinic standards akin to demanding all dentists’ offices use gold-plated tools and have hazmat equipment available at all times. It’s unnecessary, and it basically ensures that all but the economically privileged are unable to see a dentist.
Additionally, it’s important to realize that when discussing physical health — and ultimately emotional health, an oft sited argument from abortion opponents — there is an enormous gap in research on the “mental healthy, physical health, and socioeconomic consequences of receiving an abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term,” states ANSIRH. Given this fact, and the clear socioeconomic factor to clinic accessibility, it’s obvious that what state attorney generals like Abbott don’t know about abortion should worry them when they go to make a defense. It’s a key part of the equation, and it’s data that’s missing in the argument. Admittedly, it’s data that may take years to obtain, but limiting women’s rights until that point seems an unwise and disastrous move.
Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS