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a u s t
i n c h r o n
i c
l e
. c om
JULY 25, 2014
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hood of longer wait times to see a physician
and delays in procedures. “We are enor-
mously concerned with the reduction in the
number of health care providers,” says
Sarah Wheat, vice president of community
affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater
Texas, as she walks the halls of the soon-to-
be lone abortion clinic in Austin. “It’s hard
to anticipate what things might look like
come September, but we want patients to
know they can still count on us.”
Already seeing a rise in clients from
neighboring under- or unserved cities, the
South Austin Health Center has been
steadily grappling with the impact of HB 2;
last year, it temporarily stopped abortion
services for six weeks following the admis-
sions privileges rule. The disruption left
patients confused, angry, and anxious, says
Wheat. Even after reopening, the center
continued to receive calls from distressed
patients asking if they could still schedule
an appointment and wondering if the
health provider would be open the follow-
ing month. The center wasn’t alone in fac-
ing patient panic and tear-filled anxiety –
the scenario was repeated all over Texas.
More than a dozen clinics from Waco to El
Paso reported an immediate effect on
patients forced to reschedule abortion pro-
cedures carefully planned weeks in
advance. All this in the name of “greater
safety” for women.
reproductive-age Texas women. “This law is
perfectly crafted to shut clinics down,” says
Miller. “And the people that wrote it under-
stood exactly what they were doing.”
Fear and Confusion
Austin is home to three locally owned,
independent abortion care clinics and one
Planned Parenthood clinic, which is
licensed as an ASC. When the ASC require-
ment goes into effect Sept. 1, only the
Planned Parenthood South Austin Health
Center on Ben White Boulevard is expected
to survive, leaving just one abortion pro-
vider to serve the entire city.
The center was constructed as abortion
opponents were raising the possibility of a
law that would require women seeking an
abortion after 16 weeks of pregnancy to
undergo the procedure at an ASC, and
planned with the intention of withstand-
ing harsher abortion restrictions. That
2004 legislation reduced by 88% the num-
ber of abortions performed in Texas at or
after 16 weeks (already relatively rare),
from 3,642 in 2003 to 446 in 2004, but the
number of residents who left the state for
a late-term abortion almost quadrupled, a
2011 study found.
A decade later, the center will survive the
onerous ASC regulations. However, clinic
operators must brace for an influx of dis-
placed patients from not only across Austin
but also the whole region, and the likeli-
continued on p.22
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