In the News

McAllen abortion clinic to stay open, exempt from strict laws

Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Emily Sides
The Monitor
Washington

This article was originally posted on TheMonitor.com

McALLEN — In a blow to abortion rights advocates, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday to uphold key parts of the state’s restrictive abortion law, but carved out an exception for women in the Rio Grande Valley.

The ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen does not have to meet all of the restrictive standards set out by the Texas Legislature two years ago because the clinic is the only option for women to have a legal abortion south of San Antonio.

But the court will not allow an El Paso clinic to remain open where the nearest providers for El Paso residents are in New Mexico or San Antonio.

Ana Defrates, spokeswoman for the Houston-based National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said the law is an attempt to restrict access to abortions.

The ruling means up to eight abortion facilities in major cities in Texas, including four operated by Planned Parenthood, meet the state law’s requirements.

The decision upholds the law, which requires clinics to meet standards of ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors who provide abortions have the right to admit patients to local hospitals.

Abortion rights supporters say the law is a thinly veiled attempt to block access to abortions in Texas.

They plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily sidelined the law last year.

Spanish-speaking women with low income and education reported having the most barriers to receive effective and preferred contraceptive use, according to a report released last month by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.

Texas will be able to start enforcing the restrictions in about three weeks unless the Supreme Court steps in and temporarily halts the decision, Stephanie Toti, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Associated Press.

Toti said even McAllen clinic’s exemptions are so limited it may not be practical to keep it open.

Whole Woman’s Health staff did not return requests for comment, but wrote a blog post, calling the ruling a “near-total loss.”

“At this time we are still analyzing the decision to see if the relief granted to Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen will allow us to keep our doors open,” the post reads. “The decision doesn’t take effect immediately — we have approximately 22 days before it does so. All Whole Woman’s Health clinics will remain open for this time period and we will go up to the Supreme Court on an emergency basis in the meantime.”

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and other conservatives say the standards protect women’s health.