Texas Abortion Providers Fear Major Shutdowns

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Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, said between the travel, the 24-hour waiting period and the lack of available clinics, the 20-week deadline could create time constraints.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that it’s going to have a significant impact on when women can get the care that they need,” she said.

About 72,500 abortions are performed annually in Texas, according to the state Health Department. The busiest clinics do up to 4,000 a year. Now the remaining surgical centers will have to conduct about 14,400 each year.

Some, such as the four-bed facility Hagstrom Miller runs in San Antonio, cannot accommodate those numbers.

“With more restrictions, we see more abortions happening later in the pregnancy,” she said, adding that since the 24-hour waiting period was implemented, more terminations occur in the second trimester, and now some may miss the 20-week timeline. “It happens already.”

The situation will be most dire for women in remote areas, she said.

In McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley, Hagstrom Miller said she will likely close her clinic because architects have estimated it would cost $1.4 million to retrofit a 4,000-square-foot facility to meet all the requirements that come with transforming it into a surgical center. Since the clinic across is not large enough, she would have to move. To build a new facility would cost $3 million, she said.

Women treated under the soft-lighting in the purple rooms in the McAllen clinic already face significant challenges, said Andrea Ferrigno, Whole Woman’s Health director of service excellence. They struggle to pay and to arrange for transportation, childcare and days off from work.

After the 24-hour waiting period was instituted, the facility saw a spike in women trying to end their own pregnancies by purchasing prescription drugs at Mexican pharmacies across the border, Ferrigno said.

“I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a lot more of that,” she said.

Another facility owned by Hagstrom Miller in the southeast town of Beaumont is the only clinic between New Orleans and Houston and serves a 350-mile radius. It will close because the patient load does not justify the cost of moving the facility, which cannot be renovated, she said.

In West Texas, two clinics in Lubbock and Midland serve a population of more than 656,000 people in a 300-mile-wide area. The Planned Parenthood Women’s Health Center in Lubbock sees women who travel from New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma to the one-story building behind locked wrought-iron gates.

The clinic normally performs about 60 procedures a month. Most of the women are poor and a trip to San Antonio, Dallas or Houston — each more than 350 miles away — would be too expensive, Director Angela Martinez said.

The clinic estimates the cost to retrofit just one room would be as much as $500,000, more than it can afford.

“People are really discouraged,” Martinez said.

(Photo: AP)

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