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6 Abortion Clinics for 13 Million Women? Inside Texas' Latest Assault on Women's Rights

Reproductive rights are hanging on by a hair in the Lone Star State.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com

 

All eyes were on Texas last July, when Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis’ day-long filibuster and activists’ chants temporarily blocked a bill containing some of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the country. But after the spotlight faded and the bill — House Bill 2 (HB2) — ultimately passed, Texas was left with 24 clinics to serve the whole state of 26 million as 14 abortion clinics were forced to close. In September, when the law fully takes effect unless blocked by court challenges, Texas may be left with only six abortion clinics.

Outside the Lone Star state, the political world is weighing Wendy Davis’ campaign for Texas governor, which was propelled by her courageous defense of reproductive rights. But inside Texas, a scramble has ensued among a small community of women’s health organizers to help women needing abortions.

“People aren’t really interested in focusing on these issues when there aren’t hot button legislation things or riots happening at the Capitol, but there are literally lives at stake every day here,” said Noreen Khimji, a member of the Cicada Collective, a group of volunteers who provide travel services as well as informational and emotional support to North Texas women.

“Everyone who contacts us is definitely in a lot of need and under dire circumstance,” she said. “There are people who can’t access clinics at all.”

These dire circumstances brought about by HB2 have changed how Texas women can find and get abortions. The bill’s strict regulations on medication abortions, for instance, are making some women choose to have in-clinic abortions instead. Meanwhile, several grassroots groups have formed to offer transportation and money, while those already in place have faced extra burdens. HB2 also has put more burdens on abortion providers. Fewer doctors are now allowed to perform abortions, and the clinics that have remained open are swamped with additional patients.

“We’re just doing triage at this point,” said Merritt Tierce, executive director of Texas Equal Access Fund, a volunteer-based, non-profit that has helped low-income women fund abortions for nearly a decade. They receive 30 calls each day, she said, but can only afford to help three or four women.

This disastrous state of affairs is just the beginning. Matt Angle founder of the Lonestar Project, a Texas political research organization that encouraged Davis’ run for governor, emphasized that the closure of these clinics go beyond restricting access to abortion, but also cuts access to basic healthcare, family planning services, cancer screenings and pre-natal care. He is hoping the real-world impact of anti-abortion Republicans will translate into votes for Wendy Davis when she runs against Gregg Abbott for the state governor seat come November.

“There’s no question that by Republicans aggressively moving to withhold access to healthcare to millions of Texas women that it creates a motivating factor for them,” Angle said.

The State of (Abortion in) Texas

Texas, which was a Republic before it became the 28th state, has always been its own world. Today, with more than 26 million residents, it’s the second most populous state in the country. It’s also the second largest state in the country, so vast that if it were a nation, it would be the 40th largest in the world. Those distances come into play when women needing abortions look at their options.

Currently, with just the 24 clinics left in the state after the first part of HB2 went into effect in November, access to abortion has been extremely hard to come by, especially for low-income women. Not only do they have to find the means to pay for the procedure, which typically costs $300-$1,000, they have to travel extra distances multiple times.