Anti-abortion Extremists Still Aren't Telling the Truth about HB 2

by Dan Quinn

The Texas Legislature’s passage of House Bill 2 last summer has led to the closing of most abortion clinics across the state. In fact, the number of abortion clinics in all of Texas will have dropped from 44 in 2011 to as few as six next month if HB 2 is fully implemented. Yet activists who helped pass that bill still aren’t telling the truth about what they were trying to do.

Consider, for example, an interview with Kyleen Wright, head of the anti-abortion and anti-sex ed group Texans for Life Coalition, in the September issue of Texas Monthly. Wright tries to persuade readers that the purpose of the draconian anti-abortion legislation passed last year was to protect women, not close clinics:

We had no idea how many clinics would close. I don’t want to be disingenuous: we’re not unhappy when abortion clinics close, because we think that abortion hurts women and we know that it ends the life of a separate, unique human being. But the part of the legislation that our organization was so passionate about was the hospital admitting privileges. That was about getting some bad actors out of the industry.

Wright goes on to talk about two women who told her about horrible experiences they had with a particular abortion doctor. At least one of those experiences, according to Wright, involved being molested by the doctor. So, she says, the requirement that doctors obtain hospital admitting privileges is simply a tool for protecting women from bad doctors.

But it was already illegal for a doctor to molest his or her patients. Forcing all doctors who provide abortion care to obtain hospital admitting privileges simply creates another obstacle for providers of a legal medical procedure. And by pressuring hospitals to deny admitting privileges, anti-abortion extremists can stop doctors from providing safe, legal abortion care.

Moreover, as the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas explains, such requirements don’t increase patient safety; they simply give “hospitals veto power over the existence of providers”:

“(T)he risk of transferring a patient from an outpatient abortion clinic to a hospital is less than 1 out of 1,000. When such a transfer occurs, it is important that the physician most qualified to care for that patient treat her; in many cases, that may not be the abortion provider. In addition, hospitals are obligated to provide emergency care to any patient experiencing a medical emergency under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA). It is standard practice for the abortion provider as the referring physician to contact the emergency room physician in order to inform the medical staff about the patient, regardless of whether the referring physician has admitting and staff privileges there. A recent analysis of complications of office-based surgery in Florida and Alabama concluded that “requiring physician board certification and physician hospital privileges does not seem to increase safety of patients undergoing surgical procedures in the office setting.”

Wright is also being disingenuous when she suggests that her organization was mostly interested in that requirement on admitting privileges. The Texans for Life Coalition blog last summer made pretty clear that the organization passionately supported all of HB 2’s burdensome regulations:

The pro-life omnibus bill is historic legislation that will save thousands of babies each year and better protect women. It bans abortions after 20 weeks when babies can feel pain, requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, requires abortion facilities to upgrade to that of other surgical centers and better regulates medical abortions.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project points out (as have health care professionals) that every one of those regulations was medically unnecessary.

Had enough of extremists who use government to interfere in the decisions women make about their reproductive health and whether and when to have children? Then join us in telling far-right politicians to stop the attacks on legal, safe abortion care in Texas.

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