As a dozen of the 20 legal abortion providers left in Texas prepare to close this fall, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas announced this week that it would open a new ambulatory surgical center in Dallas, making it one of a handful of legal abortion providers that will remain open after the full implementation of HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion law passed last summer after weeks of protest at the state capitol.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Sarah Wheat told Rewire that
the organization is making minor renovations to the interior of an existing ambulatory surgical center in southeast Dallas, and that it should be ready to open in about a month.
“The staff is in place,” she said. “We’ve been prepping for this and we’ve had some great donors step up.”
The new anti-abortion law in Texas restricts the prescription of medication abortion, bans abortion after 20 weeks, mandates that doctors have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of wherever they provide abortion care, and requires abortion-providing facilities to meet the standards of hospital-like ambulatory surgical centers.
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It is this last prong of the law, which goes into effect September 1, that is expected to shutter all but six currently existing abortion providers in the state, all of which are located in urban areas east of the Interstate 35 corridor that cuts Texas roughly in half. After the new Planned Parenthood facility opens in Dallas, that city will have two providers. Houston will also have two providers, and Austin and Fort Worth will each have one provider. Another new Planned Parenthood facility is scheduled to open this fall in San Antonio.
Two years ago, before HB 2 passed, Texas had 44 abortion providers serving its 27 million residents. After September 1, if a pending federal court challenge does not delay the implementation of the law, six of Texas’ eight legal abortion facilities will be Planned Parenthood locations.
According to a press release sent Tuesday, Planned Parenthood is also launching a Patient Assistance Fund that will help Texans who live outside of major metropolitan areas pay for “funding for transportation and lodging costs, and contraception to help plan and space future pregnancies, and prevent unintended pregnancies.”
Wheat told Rewire that HB 2’s hospital admitting privileges requirement made it impossible for Planned Parenthood to open an ambulatory surgical center in the rural parts of the state where local hospitals tend to be religiously affiliated.
“We used to provide services in Waco, but we cannot because of the admitting privileges,” said Wheat, noting that the only two hospitals that could potentially grant admitting privileges there are Baptist and Catholic affiliates.
“That is a block,” she said. “You’re looking at your options shrink.”
The latest challenge to HB 2, which in part brings evidence of specific harm done to residents of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley who are no longer able to access legal abortion care, is scheduled to go to trial in early August.