The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 77/No. 42      November 25, 2013

Court decision on Texas law allows
attack on women’s right to abortion
(front page)

An Oct. 31 decision by a U.S. appeals court that could lead to the shutdown of more than one-third of abortion clinics in Texas is the latest assault in a steady campaign to undermine women’s right to choose in the U.S.

The court reinstated an onerous and medically unnecessary requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of any clinic performing abortions. “At least 13 of 36 clinics in the state are no longer providing abortions,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, in a phone interview from Austin.

One of the most restrictive state laws against women’s right to abortion was passed in Texas July 12 with support from both Democratic and Republican legislators. In addition to the admitting privilege rule, it bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy; requires clinics to match the standards of hospital surgical facilities beginning October 2014; and in effect bans drug-induced abortions for women more than seven weeks pregnant.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued an injunction Oct. 28 against the admitting privilege requirement and restrictions on medication-induced abortions after Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers filed suit against those two aspects of the law. Three days later, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the injunction on the admitting privilege regulation.

“It’s devastating for women’s health in the state,” Betty Pettigrew, director of the Routh Street Women’s Clinic in Dallas, told the Militant.

Routh Street clinic has doctors with admitting privileges. But hospitals have declined requests for admitting privileges at many other clinics, particularly in rural areas. Since the court ruling, several hundred women from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana have called the clinic to make appointments after their procedures were canceled elsewhere, Pettigrew said.

“Women with financial means will find a way to get an abortion,” Rocío Villalobos, with the pro-choice group Rise Up Texas in Austin, said by phone Nov. 7. “But when you look at those who can’t afford to go far, they’re going to turn to unsafe methods.”

While the Fifth Circuit overturned the injunction in Texas, it let stand an injunction on a similar admitting privilege requirement in Mississippi, where there is only one clinic that performs abortions in the entire state, Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson. A hearing on the Mississippi law is scheduled for March.

So-called right to life groups have been trying to close down the Jackson clinic for years, Laurie Roberts, president of the Mississippi chapter of the National Organization for Women, told the Militant Nov. 6.

“Ten years ago there were five clinics that performed abortions in the state,” said Roberts. But the Mississippi legislature approved legislation that forced most of the clinics to go out of business, she said. In Mississippi, abortion is illegal after 16 weeks of pregnancy, clinics have to follow the same building codes as hospitals, and women have to attend a counseling session and then wait 24 hours before having an abortion.

Women’s rights supporters are determined to fight any attempt to close the clinic.

“Just this weekend about 45 people defended the clinic because the so-called right to life group Operation Save America was in town,” Roberts said Nov. 5. “And yesterday we did a pro-choice caravan through downtown.”

On Nov. 4 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that a state law banning drug-induced abortions was unconstitutional.

“It won’t be surprising if the legislature goes back and writes the law in a different way,” Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said by phone. “And unfortunately many Democrats as well as Republicans do vote against women’s reproductive rights.”

Skeeters has joined demonstrations in Texas and other states as well as in Oklahoma in defense of women’s right to choose.

“When I started out a few years ago, I was a pessimist, pulled along by my outrage,” she said. “But in going to all kinds of events with literature and buttons and speaking out I found out that if you stand up there will be unexpected openings.”

In Ohio a new anti-abortion law that went into effect in early October includes a provision forcing women to have an ultrasound test before any abortion.

Opponents of legal abortion have been pushing many of these restrictions under the guise of health and safety or the need for women to make an informed decision. But advocates for women’s rights say the clear goal of these forces is to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to control her own body.

“It’s totally deliberate,” Roberts said. “They want to chip away at this right. If they can get a new restriction passed, then it’s easier for them to move on to the next one.”
Related article:
Australia backers of women’s rights oppose fetal ‘personhood’
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home