Rick Perry Abortion Rules: New Bans on Clinics Affect Reproductive Rights in Texas

On Thursday, new rules from the Texas health and human services commissioner for the Women's Health Program dealt another blow to women's health services in the state. The new rules, which ban relationships with abortion providers for women's clinics, have the potential to shut down family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood in the Lone Star State, forcing women seeking abortion or the clinic's other services to find them elsewhere.

Texas

Sticking to the Gulf Coast here for a moment. Staring down the overwhelming, seemingly daily, Google News results for “Texas abortion” I kind of just want to cry.

Instead of talking about abortion access in Texas, which is increasingly non-existent, we should probably be talking about abortion access in Mexico. According to the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry’s antics are forcing women over the wall and through the Rio Grande just to obtain access to RU-486, or something like it. These women aren’t given instructions on how to take it and often suffer severe side effects or find it ineffective: tragedies that wouldn’t happen if Perry hadn’t defunded women’s health clinics in 2011, or implemented a two-appointment ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period law.

Last year, Perry’s legislature managed to lose federal women’s health funding in the state on the order of 90% by passing a “rule that prevents organizations 'affiliated' with an abortion provider from being a part of the Medicaid program.” The legislation also included phrasing to defund any organization that suggests abortion as an option. Planned Parenthood sued the state, won an injunction, and then lost in the 5th Circuit in August.

Nearly half of the clinics that lost funds were forced to close permanently, overwhelmingly affecting poorer, more rural areas. This legislation affected the metro areas, too. 15% of Houston area family planning clinics closed their doors. Clinics are still shutting down.

Perry decided, though, that he would replace the lost federal funds and health clinics with some state-run programming, like a slew of “crisis pregnancy centers.” This is code for places where you go to learn about your options: adoption, adoption, or, yeah, adoption. At at least one of these places, they don’t even provide the morning after pill. The new Texas Women’s Health Program will go into effect on November 1.

In January, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2011 law requiring women to have sonograms before an abortion, to look at the image and listen to the heartbeat, and listen to the physician describe the procedure — “including whether it has developed limbs or internal organs.” Women can opt out of the first two requirements but not the third. (The “Women’s Right to Know” informational booklet can be downloaded here.)

After the Court ruled in Texas’s favor, Gary Trudeau took Texas to the cleaners in a highly critical and controversial Doonesbury strip.

Texas also requires parental consent, and it’s been speculated that they’d outlaw abortion outright should Roe v. Wade be overturned (in the event Romney gets to appoint SCOTUS justices).

Editor's Note: With 18 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Louisiana, Arkansas,Missouri,KentuckyMinnesotaIllinoisIowaMississippiMichiganIndianaAlabamaOhioFloridaGeorgiaD.C.South CarolinaNorth CarolinaVirginia and MarylandPennsylvaniaDelawareNew JerseyNew YorkWisconsinConnecticutVermont,  Massachusetts & Rhode IslandMaine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!