This morning, a U.S. district judge heard closing arguments in the legal battle over the newest round of Texas' insanely and needlessly severe abortion restrictions. If they're upheld, they'll shut down all but seven abortion providers in the state. Texas women will be totally fucked — a fact the Houston city council pointed out earlier this week, in more diplomatic terms, in an open letter calling for the restrictions to be repealed.
HB2, a law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, has already forced over half of the clinics in Texas to close (there are currently nineteen abortion providers in the state, down from forty-one just over a year ago). Its final provision, which would take effect on September 1, mandates that abortion clinics must meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers. Although conservative supporters of restrictions like these like to pretend that they're out to protect women's health, their real intention is to get around the pesky fact that abortion is legal in our country by over-regulating abortion providers out of existence. An abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures one can get. All the regulatory nonsense surrounding it is right-wing trickery meant to rob women of reproductive autonomy in the name of unborn fetuses.
In fact, to say that laws that shut down abortion providers help women's health in any way is utterly and despicably specious, because shutting down abortion clinics doesn't reduce the amount of abortions women get. It just makes it far more likely that they'll be forced to resort to unsafe and illegal alternatives — like, for example, black market abortion pills, which are disturbingly on the rise in Texas.
Fortunately, the many Texans who do value women's health and safety aren't taking these attacks on female reproductive autonomy lying down. Earlier this week, Houston mayor Annise Parker wrote an open letter in which she and eight other members of the Houston City Council called on the Texas State legislature to repeal HB2. The letter also calls on Congress to pass the Women's Health Protection Act, a law that would prevent bullshit clinic restrictions like these from threatening women's right to choice.
"When the Texas legislature passed HB2, we knew Houston residents could be harmed by it," it reads. "We also knew that Houston would become one of the very few places left to get an abortion (and in some cases, any reproductive health care) in Texas, and that women's health and lives would be put at risk because of that... We believe federal legislation limiting government interference with the delivery of the full range of reproductive health services is necessary to ensure that women in all states have equal access to these services."
"Houston residents and those who may come to Houston should have access to safe, legal reproductive health care," the letter states. It's sad that that's a controversial opinion to hold in America in 2014. It sucks that it even needs to be argued. But here we are.
Image via AP.