Politics & Government

More Texas abortion clinics on verge of closing

The Planned Parenthood Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, which provides community outreach and a full range of reproductive healthcare services - including abortions - will remain open.
The Planned Parenthood Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, which provides community outreach and a full range of reproductive healthcare services - including abortions - will remain open. Star-Telegram archives

More abortion clinics in Texas — including one in Fort Worth — are getting ready to close in a matter of weeks unless the U.S. Supreme Court acts soon to give them a reprieve.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday declined to suspend its June 9 decision that enforces the final pieces of Texas’ comprehensive abortion law known as House Bill 2. Abortion rights advocates said they would submit an emergency application to the Supreme Court for a stay.

If their plea is rejected, or not answered, more abortion clinics in Texas will close by July 1, leaving facilities only in the urban areas of Fort Worth, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and possibly McAllen.

“Many clinics will close,” said Kelly Hart, senior director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “Women are confused. They aren’t really sure where to go.”

Estimates show that fewer than 10 clinics may remain open because they are the only ones to meet the key criteria of HB 2, which requires abortion facilities to match the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

“It’s not going to be the Armageddon the other side is predicting at all,” said Kyleen Wright of Mansfield, president of the Texans for Life Coalition. “The clinics will have to meet higher standards.

“I can’t believe we’re arguing about this. We will still have abortion clinics all over the state.”

On June 9, a 5th Circuit panel upheld most provisions of Texas’ abortion law, the same one former state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, filibustered in 2013.

The law requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearly hospital. It also requires that drugs designed to induce an abortion be given to patients in the presence of a doctor. And it bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest with a minor.

Last year, a lower court ruling struck down the requirement for surgical center requirements throughout the state; last week’s decision by the 5th Circuit overturned that ruling, although it made a possible exception for a McAllen facility.

Abortion providers asked the appeals court to suspend its ruling until the Supreme Court reviews the case, but on Friday, the 5th Circuit stood by its decision.

A few years ago, Texas had more than 40 abortion clinics. It soon may have fewer than 10, according to different groups’ estimates.

Local abortion clinics

One Fort Worth clinic will remain open for sure: the Planned Parenthood Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, a $6.5 million licensed ambulatory surgical center that was privately funded by North Texas contributors and opened in 2013.

The facility is not just an abortion clinic. It also serves as a family planning health center and administrative headquarters for Planned Parenthood in Tarrant County, Hart said.

“The message we want to get out is that Planned Parenthood is available to provide care for women in need,” she said. “We have facilities … that are open that are not affected by this ruling that will continue to provide care.”

At the same time, a clinic on the far west side of Fort Worth, the Whole Woman’s Clinic in Fort Worth, is among those expected to close.

This clinic, which is listed in court papers as being among 10 abortion facilities in Texas to close, has been caught in the revolving door of court rulings. First it was to close last year, then came a reprieve that kept the doors open. It was still open this week, but after the 5th Circuit’s most recent ruling likely will close its doors soon.

“The decision doesn’t take effect immediately,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and president of the chain of clinics, said in a recent statement. “All Whole Woman’s Health Clinics will remain open for this time period and we will go up to the Supreme Court on an emergency basis in the meantime.

“No matter what the outcome of this case is, Whole Woman’s Health will continue to remain open to serve women in the Southwest with our surgical center facility in San Antonio and in our New Mexico clinic,” she said.

She didn’t mention the Fort Worth clinic and spokespeople at the clinic have not returned calls and emails from the Star-Telegram. But the clinic had stopped procedures at this clinic, and was preparing to close, last year before a court ruling gave it a reprieve.

“I really wish that no woman felt the need or compelled to have an abortion,” Wright said. “But if she does, she deserves a facility and a doctor as competent as what other patients receive.”

Statewide clinics

Planned Parenthood will continue to run and operate clinics in Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston and Austin, Hart said.

The Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, Whole Woman’s Health Clinic of San Antonio and the Aaron Clinic Surgery Center, also known as the Texas Ambulatory Surgical Center, in Houston, are expected to remain open as well.

“We are a very large state and limiting access to reproductive health care is a really big issue,” said Tenesha Duncan, administrator at the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center. “Abortion has been highly regulated.

“Closing clinics is not the answer,” she said. “It is not going to stop women from having abortions.”

Whole Woman’s Health officials say they are analyzing the court ruling to see if they will be able to keep the McAllen clinic open.

“All Texas abortion clinics are now, once again, subject to politically imposed, medically unnecessary requirements — requirements that are so onerous that they leave me no choice but to officially close the doors of every remaining abortion clinic in the state, leaving only a handful of ASC’s located only in the major metropolitan areas leaving thousands of women without access,” Hagstrom Miller said in her statement. “Politicians put a road full of unnecessary hurdles in front of every woman in Texas who has decided to end her pregnancy.”

Wright said the market will dictate whether more clinics are needed in Texas.

“We will have nine or 10 or maybe more,” she said. “This is something the market will drive.

“If the clinics can’t keep up with demand, I have no doubt there will be more.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

Texas abortion clinics

Here’s a look at the main clinics that are expected to remain open in Texas, if no further court order changes the current ruling.

▪ Planned Parenthood in Fort Worth

▪ Planned Parenthood in Dallas

▪ Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas

▪ Planned Parenthood in Austin

▪ Planned Parenthood in Houston

▪ Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio

▪ Aaron Clinic Surgery Center in Houston

▪ Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen.

Note: The Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Fort Worth is open and performing abortions, but is expected to close due to the recent court ruling.

Source: Planned Parenthood, Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, Whole Woman’s Health, Aaron Clinic Surgery Center.

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