The complicated fight surrounding Texas abortion rights

Access to abortions is changing in Texas. Abortion-rights advocates say that has a negative impact on women's health, while antiabortion activists say that gives more women the opportunity to choose other options.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
A stone wall protects clients entering a Planned Parenthood clinic, on February 23, 2016 in Austin, Texas. This clinic was built to provide privacy for clients, with high rock walls and bulletproof glass. This Planned Parenthood is one of three in Austin – and offers abortions as well as regular gynecological care and birth control. The Texas state legislature passed a restrictive abortion bill, HB2, with detailed conditions clinics must meet to continue providing abortions. The US Supreme Court will rule on whether to overturn the bill.

In advance of Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing, The Christian Science Monitor examined abortion in Texas in a three-part series looking at those most affected by the Texas law, the 'pro-life' answer to abortion clinics, and how hard it is to get an abortion in the state.

It is becoming harder and harder for women to obtain an abortion in Texas.

Since 2011, the Texas legislature has been shifting money away from abortion clinics. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court heard arguments regarding whether or not portions of the Texas House Bill 2, popularly known as HB 2, violate constitutional protections.

What the Supreme Court heard during those arguments reflects the broader national debate surrounding abortion rights. Since Texas passed the law in 2011, its critics have said that 41 abortion clinics have closed.

During the Supreme Court hearing on March 2, Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that 900,000 women in Texas now live farther than 150 miles from their nearest abortion clinic. This is an increase from 100,000 living 150 miles from a clinic in 2012.

Antiabortion activists have said that HB 2 protects women from having unsafe abortions. However, data published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers at the University of Texas' Policy Evaluation Project shows that the restrictions imposed by HB 2 forces women to wait longer for an abortion, travel longer distances to obtain one, and pay more out-of-pocket for receiving the procedure. And that longer wait can lead some women to terminate a pregnancy later, when the risks associated with the procedure are higher.

Women in poverty, women in rural areas, and younger women are much more likely to face a negative impact from these restrictions than others, experts say. For some of these women, they may not even be able to obtain an abortion at all.

Texas does nothing for teenage girls. The Janes are the least among us,” Susan Hays, a Texas appellate lawyer and legal director of a group called Jane’s Due Process (JDP), told the Monitor in February, referring to the anonymous “Jane Doe” that the legal group uses to protect their clients’ privacy in confidential court documents.

Billing themselves as an alternative to the abortion route, crisis pregnancy centers have sprung up throughout Texas – and around the country – offering women a space to consider all of their options besides abortion. Critics of these centers say that their antiabortion message is overt, and that they intentionally mislead women who come to them seeking abortion services.

But the centers don’t see themselves that way. They see their duty as one to inform and provide, not to persuade.

“We let them know their life does have value and we are here to help them with that purpose,” Lori DeVillez, executive director of the Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, told the Monitor in a February interview.

See the Monitor's three-part series:     

Part 1: In Texas, a side of abortion debate few ever see
Part 2: Inside the 'pro-life' answer to abortion clinics
Part 3: How difficult is it to get an abortion in Texas?

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