This week, the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee swiftly approved a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) bill that would require abortion-providing doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of where the procedure is performed. State Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) authored the bill, which in its committee-approved form requires licensed abortion clinics to provide a 24-hour hotline for abortion patients after their procedures—a stipulation that the Department of State Health Services already requires of licensed abortion clinics in Texas.
The bill’s Republican backers say that SB 1198 is intended to ensure “continuity of care,” but opponents of the bill, including a representative from the Texas Hospital Association, testified in committee that hospital admitting privileges hardly guarantee that an abortion-providing doctor will be on hand in an emergency room to treat complications from a procedure.
“Requiring that a doctor have privileges at a particular hospital does not guarantee that that physician will be at the hospital when the woman arrives,” said Stacy Wilson, associate general counsel of the Texas Hospital Association. Instead, she suggested that patients be provided with information about the nearest hospital and alternative doctors to contact should they experience complications.
State Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), a committee member and family physician in east Texas who supports the bill, suggested that doctors who don’t perform abortions shouldn’t be asked to treat patients who present with complications from abortion procedures. Why? Because it isn’t “fair.”
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“Do you think it’s fair to ask a doctor who is not involved in the abortion to take care of that patient?” Deuell asked Wilson after her testimony.
Another proponent of the bill suggested that without a hospital admitting privileges requirement, abortion care would “be the hiding place for the bottom feeders of the medical profession who can’t make it anywhere else.”
This despite the fact that legal abortion is already one of the safest and most common medical procedures performed in the United States; it’s fourteen times safer than childbirth, according to Obstetrics & Gynecology, the journal of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Supporters of the bill seem to believe that abortion providers are uniquely less trustworthy or capable of practicing safe medicine than other physicians—who are not asked to obtain admitting privileges based on the specific kind of outpatient care they provide—but also want those same incapable, untrustworthy abortion providers should be required to perform any and all follow-up care.
The thinking doesn’t seem logical if patient safety is the ultimate goal, but makes plenty of sense if the aim of SB 1198 and its ilk is to shut down abortion clinics and providers and reduce access to safe, legal abortion care in Texas.