South Texas Women No Longer Have to Travel 200 Miles For Abortions

In the halcyon days of anti-choice insanity in Texas, lawmakers were able to gleefully shut down over half the abortion providers in the state, all the while claiming that they had women’s best interests in mind. In south Texas, as a result, women who wanted to safely and legally terminate their pregnancies faced a 200-mile drive to the nearest clinic (for their own good! claimed the lawmakers spuriously). Fortunately, that’s set to change.

According to the Amy Hagstrom Miller — the chief executive of Whole Women’s Health in McAllen, a city near the Mexico border — the clinic will start operating again this weekend, following a court ruling that blocked some particularly egregious pieces of the state’s ridiculously severe abortion law. Whole Women’s Health was forced to close in March; when it reopens, it will be the only remaining clinic south of San Antonio.

In the ruling, which occurred earlier this week, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin blocked a provision of Texas’ sweeping anti-abortion law that would have shuttered all but seven providers in the state. Significantly, he also partially rolled back a rule already in effect. That rule, which needlessly requires all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, has left just 19 clinics in the state open (down from 40 in 2012). In the Rio Grande Valley, which is one of the poorest regions in the nation, it forced every single clinic to close — meaning that women from the area must take a 400-mile round trip in order to legally terminate unwanted pregnancies. Conservatives lawmakers argued that this doesn’t constitute an undue burden, even though it’s obvious that a 400-mile drive is a significant obstacle, especially for low-income women who lack the economic means to pay for gas and take time off of work, etc.

Depriving millions of women of abortion access within a few hours’ drive is actually quite clearly an undue burden. Thus, Yeakel also ruled last week that admitting-privilege provision should not apply to clinics in McAllen and El Paso, places where women have “little practical access to abortion.” I mean, admitting privileges shouldn’t apply anywhere, but this is a good and extremely necessary start.

Hagstrom Miller said in a telephone news conference that the exemption for the McAllen provider is especially good news for “Hispanic and low-income women in the Rio Grande Valley, many of them working mothers,” who were most affected by the closures in the region.

So, yes, this is great news. And, considering similar rulings in other Southern states, it may be part of a heartening pattern. But also keep in mind that fetus-loving/women-indifferent conservative lawmakers have already filed a federal appeal because of course they fucking have; that hearing is scheduled for September 12 in New Orleans. And so it goes.

Image via Getty.

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