Texas private clinics are struggling to survive under the ban on abortion

Private clinics are at risk of abortion restrictions because they do not have the visibility, institutional support or financial resources

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Two months ago, Amy Hagstrom Miller said her abortion clinics had stalled since Texas imposed the country's most restrictive abortion law before most women knew they were pregnant.

"It's like we're freezing in time," said Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health and the Whole Woman's Health Alliance. "My staff must always refuse, which is mentally and emotionally difficult because they are trained to see everyone, but under this law, they have to work as state agents and deny people care."

In September, the law came into force, known as Senate Bill 8, which prohibits abortions once cardiac function has been detected, usually within six weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, women carry their unwanted pregnancies late or cross the state lines to have an abortion. The law also prevents state officials from enforcing a ban. Instead, it allows people to sue abortion providers and anyone who might help someone to have an abortion after the time limit and demand financial damage of at least $ 10,000 per defendant.

A security guard opens the door to the Whole Women's Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, September 1, 2021.

A security guard opens the door to the Whole Women's Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, September 1, 2021. LM Otero / AP

Compliance with the almost complete abortion ban has significantly reduced the number of women receiving government care. In September, the number of abortions in Texas dropped by 50 percent from the same month in 2020, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas, Austin. Providers, on the other hand, have postponed or stopped providing most of their abortion services, ultimately putting many private clinics, such as Whole Woman's Health, at risk.

Private, often for-profit clinics, are at risk of abortion restrictions because they do not have the visibility, institutional support or financial resources of other providers, such as Planned Parenthood, to comply with new rules or keep their doors open while cases go through. court system.

“These are clinics that survive every day. There is no greater safety net to help them in times of crisis, ”said Molly Duane, a senior staff lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represents several Texas clinics challenging the ban.

"Doctors, who have been struggling to provide abortion care to patients, may not be able to do that a week or a month from now because Texas has passed an unconstitutional law," he added.

Private clinics offer 3 out of 5 abortions in the United States each year. Although they represent about 25 percent of the facilities providing abortion services, private clinics provide more than half of all abortions in the country.

Whole Woman's Health - which operates at four Texas clinics - has experienced a decline in the number of abortions completed since S.B. 8 went into effect. In the last week of October, Whole Woman's Health at Fort Worth had 20 abortions compared to 90 in the same week in 2020, said Hagstrom Miller. He added that his clinics were "feeling abandoned" and had reduced the number of days they offered abortion services from five to as little as two days a week.

He said his clinics had used the allocated funds and received other grants to reduce their losses under the new law. However, he adds, "It will not last forever."

Similarly, the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas typically provides 9,000 abortions a year, with about 200 abortions per week. Under the new law, the clinic provides about 50 abortions a week, according to Drs. Allison Gilbert, clinical director of clinical practice.

Southwestern Women's Surgery Center in Dallas in 2013.

Southwestern Women's Surgery Center in Dallas 2013.Rex C. Curry / AP file

He said the law had forced the center to reduce the number of days it offers abortion programs to three days a week instead of five. Although the clinic has never experienced retrenchment, it has reduced staff hours and shifted staff between Dallas and its sister clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which has faced problems for Texas patients since the ban began.

"We are holding our breath that we will be judged every day in the Supreme Court because every day has a profound effect on our ability to remain open," Gilbert said.

For Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, this new law is the victory of an anti-abortion organization.

“People's lives are being saved, and what we have been working on for the past 50 years is coming true. In the years to come, we will see more laws to protect the unborn, ”she said, adding that abortions for abortion offered in the province“ are good for children, mothers, and of course Texas. ”