AUSTIN -- Eight months after a state law restricting access to abortions went into effect, the number of abortions in Texas has decreased by 13 percent, and nearly half of all abortion clinics in Texas have been shut down.
House Bill 2 was passed in July 2013 and went into effect in November, banning most abortion procedures after 20 weeks post-fertilization and requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law also requires all abortion facilities to meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) by September. Medical abortion providers must also use the protocol for medical abortion included in FDA regulations for mifepristone, a pill commonly used to end a pregnancy.
Due to the new regulations, the number of facilities providing abortions in Texas has decreased from 41 to 22 between November and April, a 46 percent decrease. According to a study released Wednesday by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, researchers credit Texas' 13 percent abortion rate decrease to these clinic closures. All of the clinics in the Rio Grande Valley south of San Antonio have closed, and only one clinic remains open in West Texas.
According to the study, 290,000 Texas women now live more than 200 miles from an abortion clinic. The study projects that when the ASC requirement goes into effect in September, this number will increase to 752,000. That's about 5.65 percent of all female Texas residents, according to 2013 census data. Before the new regulations, 10,000 Texas women lived more than 200 miles from an abortion clinic.
According to Texas Policy Evaluation Project data released in July, almost all clinic closures are related to difficulties in obtaining hospital admitting privileges for physicians at the clinics.
The study says the clinic closures are causing women to flock to larger cities such as Austin or Houston, where the number of abortions have increased.
The most notable decrease is in the number of medical abortions, or the use of the abortion pill. Medical abortions have decreased 70 percent, the study says. Several clinics have stopped offering this form of abortion entirely.
"Some women have a strong preference for medical abortion, but the law has made it much more difficult to obtain," said the study's lead author, obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Daniel Grossman. "There is no evidence that any of the provisions in this law has improved the safety of abortion in the state -- they have just made it harder for women to access the services they want and need."
House Bill 2 brought thousands of protesters to the Texas State Capitol last summer, following State Sen. Wendy Davis' now-famous 11-hour filibuster of Senate Bill 5, a similar bill proposing restrictions on abortions in Texas.