AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The last abortion clinic in the vast, impoverished Rio Grande Valley closed Thursday, along with the sole remaining clinic in the 100-mile stretch between Houston and the Louisiana border, posing a tall obstacle to women seeking to end pregnancies across a wide swath of the nation’s second-largest state.
The closures in McAllen and Beaumont bring to 19 the number of clinics that have shut down since Texas lawmakers adopted tough new abortion restrictions last summer. Twenty-four clinics remain to serve a population of 26 million people, and more closures could happen after additional restrictions take effect later this year.
Lawmakers required all abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, all abortions to take place in a surgical facility and all women seeking abortion-inducing medications to make four clinical visits. Those rules made it impossible for the clinics in Beaumont and McAllen to stay open, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health.
Anti-abortion lawmakers said the regulations are necessary to protect women’s health, but abortion-rights groups have sued the state claiming the restrictions are medically unnecessary and intended to shut down all Texas clinics that offer abortion services.
“Closing our clinics hurts us. But more importantly, it hurts the communities we have served,” Miller said Thursday at a news conference. “We have done everything possible to keep our clinics open, but we are simply unable to survive.”
The Whole Woman’s Health clinics in Beaumont and McAllen had been open since 1973, when abortion was made legal by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.
Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, welcomed the clinic closures because, he said, those facilities did not adequately protect patients.
“Requiring a doctor at an abortion facility to have admitting privileges at a local hospital is common sense,” he said. “In the event of a serious complication from an abortion, the physician should be able to follow the patient to the emergency room to continue caring for his or her patient.”