Abortion clinics in Texas may soon face harsh new state requirements that pro-choice advocates say could greatly reduce access to abortion.
Sens Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) filed a bill this morning that would require abortion clinics to meet the same conditions as ambulatory surgical centers.
The measure, Senate Bill 537, would force abortion clinics to follow the Texas Administrative Code for surgical centers, a 117 page document outlining everything from laboratory, nursing and anaesthesiologist requirements to radiological and construction procedures. Most of this code has little to do with the services provided by abortion clinics.
Filed by three pro-life doctors, legislation like this has been viewed as an underhanded tactic, which, in other states (like Alabama), has been criticized for threatening to close abortion clinics that don’t have the capacity or funding to meet such strict new requirements.
However, Sen. Deuell contends that the legislation is simply a method of increasing safety and health among Texas women. “Just as a medical doctor,” he said, “it came to me that they’re not under the same standards as any other surgical clinics and that we need to put them under that just for the safety of the patients.”
Deuell was adamant that the bill isn’t a pro-life tactic to close abortion clinics or make abortion less accessible. “It has nothing to do with abortions being done or not done.” He continued, “They’re legal, so they’re being done, and it is a surgical procedure, and it needs to be done in a place that has the same standards as a surgical center. Simple as that.”
He also asserted that the legislation would actually improve women’s health and accessibility to abortion providers. “The pro-choice movement talks about wanting to take abortions out of the back alley so they can be done properly. If you’re not certified as a surgical center, then that gets more toward the back alley and not in mainstream medicine, which is where it needs to be,” Deuell said.
Sen. Campbell echoed Deuell’s sentiments. “While many of us oppose abortion, we can all agree that measures should be in place to ensure the health and safety of women who undergo this procedure,” she said in a statement to the Observer. “This legislation simply requires abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers in Texas. As a physician, I believe this is a common sense measure with the potential to save lives.”
However women’s health and reproductive rights advocates disagree. Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said in a statement that “this bill is part of Governor Rick Perry’s plan to end safe, legal abortion in Texas. It’s clear this bill is about politics—and not about women’s health or safety.”
Lambrecht said that abortion clinics already comply with extensive and excessive state health regulations that already exceed what medical professionals believe necessary to protect patient health. SB 537 would add weighty standards intended to close clinics and make abortion less accessible.
“This bill places onerous requirements on health care centers, requirements that do nothing to improve the health or safety of women. The politicians behind Senate Bill 537 really want to make all abortion illegal in Texas, no exceptions,” Lambrecht said.