Despite Ruling in Texas, Reproductive Rights Remain in Jeopardy
Reproductive rights may be seeing a reprieve from restrictions in Texas after a federal judge’s decision Friday.
Last year, the state’s legislature passed bills that caused the closure many of Texas’s abortion clinics. Though the bills didn’t ban abortion, they stacked so many restrictions — including ones that called for expensive remodeling or required that clinic doctors must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — on abortion providers that they were forced to close.
The legislation successfully shut down half of Texas’s forty-one clinics when the first group went into effect last fall. September 1 would have meant closing time for another sixteen — leaving only a handful still open — but U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel swooped in with a decision, siding with the clinics challenging the law.
Yeakel wrote in his ruling that the “overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion.” His ruling was a win for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that challenged the restrictions. “The court has made clear that women’s well-being is not advanced by laws attacking access to essential health care, and that rights protected by the U.S. Constitution may not be denied through laws that make them impossible to exercise,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
Of course, this is not the end of these bills. The state intends to appeal the court’s ruling. And, while this recent ruling is lauded by reproductive rights activists, the state has still seen enough closures due to the anti-abortion legislation that the abortion rate fell by 13 percent last year, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.
But just because the legal abortion rate is down, it doesn’t mean that abortion is down. “One important reason that women turn to self-induction is because of a lack of clinic-based care,” said Dan Grossman, a co-investigator for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, via FiveThirtyEight. “It’s a hypothesis, but it seems likely that given the clinic closures, greater knowledge about self-induction methods, and the high rates of poverty in the area, that this is something more women are going to consider.”
The amount of self-induced abortions are not something that can be easily tracked or measured, but FiveThirtyEight reports that before abortion was legal, “thousands of women were admitted to hospitals each year with hemorrhaging and infections because of incomplete self-induced abortions.” But any influx in the rate of self-induction in light of Texas’s clinic closures would be nigh impossible to prove. And, of course, many Texas women may chose to go out of the state — or even cross the southern border — to get an abortion.
But while massive damage has already been done to women’s access to clinics in Texas and reproductive rights remain in jeopardy, Yeakel’s ruling could make a huge difference in the state if it’s upheld. Currently only six clinics meet all of the restrictions under the approved legislation, and all of them are in large cities.