Texas Abortion Law Debated as Supreme Court Decision Nears

By Dustin Siggins Published on June 25, 2016

The two Texas laws that will be decided at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday are causing women in Texas to go outside the state for abortions, according to an analysis of state numbers conducted by the pro-abortion news agency Rewire. Those same statistics, however, show that more women are coming into Texas for abortions than are leaving, according to the Legislative Director of Texas Right to Life. John Seago told The Stream that Rewire’s analysis “is a gross mischaracterization” and puts unfair blame on the two laws abortion groups have challenged in the Court.

What Does Rewire Say is Happening?

In 2013, then-Texas governor Rick Perry signed HB2, which implemented higher medical standards for abortion clinics and required abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Abortion supporters say these standards are too onerous and have led to the closures of dozens of clinics.

According to Rewire’s Teddy Wilson, this is causing women to leave the state to get abortions, reversing a years-long trend of fewer Texans going elsewhere for abortions:

In 2013, the year Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed HB 2 into law, the number of Texans who traveled out of state to have an abortion increased to 681 — more than the previous four years combined. Prior to the implementation of HB 2, there were 41 facilities providing abortion services in the state, and 16 of those facilities had either closed or stopped providing abortion services by the end of 2013.

And while state officials haven’t released the numbers for 2014, Rewire said the number jumped again in 2014, based upon other states’ data:

At least 400 more patients traveled outside of Texas to have an abortion in 2014 than did in 2013, according to Rewire‘s analysis. Data collected by the state health departments of Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana shows that at least 1,086 patients traveled to those states from Texas to obtain an abortion after portions of HB 2 took effect.

More Than Meets the Eye

Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago took issue with Rewire’s analysis. In an e-mail, Seago told The Stream that the news agency’s article “is a gross mischaracterization,” and said that “long before House Bill 2 was passed women had been traveling to other states for elective abortions. In fact, far more women travel to Texas from other states and countries for abortion than women that travel out of the state.”

Seago continued:

In 2013, 1,909 women from other states and countries travelled into Texas for elective abortions, compared to 681 Texans who traveled to other states. These numbers do fluctuate and the small increase in abortion outside of Texas cannot be blamed since the new Pro-Life law, House Bill 2 has not been fully enforced since the abortion industry has kept it tied up in legal battles since its passage.

A spokesperson for the ACLU told The Stream the reason for an in-state drop but an increase outside of the state is “regulations designed to deny women access to safe and legal abortion care.” Seago agreed that pro-life laws have had an effect. At the same time, he said the regulations have created “a very positive and life-affirming cultural conversation in Texas that has educated Texans including pregnant women about the humanity of the preborn child and the injustice of abortion and the industry it profits.”

Seago specifically praised “the efforts to defund the Texas abortion industry in 2011, passage of the Pro-Life Sonogram Bill in 2011, the passage of the Preborn Pain Protection Act that prohibited abortions on preborn children who have the capacity to feel pain, and the passage of the rest of House Bill 2 that raised the medical standards on a corrupt and inept abortion industry.”

Who’s to Blame for Clinics Shutting Down?

Abortion groups that challenged Texas’ laws to the Supreme Court and other proponents of abortion have long said that the laws unconstitutionally limit the ability of women to get abortions. Trisha Trigilio, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Texas arm, told Rewire that the out-of-state abortions are “more evidence of what was already proven in court: Texas’ onerous regulations unnecessarily block access to safe, legal abortion in our state.”

Seago said full blame should be laid at the feet of abortion clinic owners for what he called the “slackers’ vote.”

“The fact that abortion clinics in Texas have chosen to close their doors instead of comply with state health and safety laws may also be a contributing factor” to the lower number of abortions in Texas, he told The Stream. “However this is caused by the abortion industry itself, not Pro-Life Texans. There are hundreds of non-abortion health centers in Texas that follow these same medical standards every day. These rules are not impossible to follow but the abortion industry is playing the victim to the Supreme Court and has threatened to close their doors if the Supreme Court does not strike down this common sense law.”

According to Seago, “if the court sides with the abortion industry, [Justices] are signaling to all clinics in the country that in order to challenge any basic, common sense health and safety standards, abortion advocates only have to argue they would rather close their doors than follow state law.”

“Historically, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that Pro-Life states have the right to pass and enforce laws intended to protect the safety of pregnant women and lives of preborn children from a greedy and immoral industry that profits from selling elective abortions.”

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