Proposed state Senate bill would close majority of Texas abortion clinics

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A bill going through the Texas Senate would require all abortion facilities to be at the same minimum standards as required for outpatient surgical centers.

Senate Bill 537, filed by Sen. Bob Deuell, Sen. Donna Campbell and Sen. Charles Schwertner, who represents Huntsville among other cities, is currently at the Health and Human Services Committee.

“The minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under Section 243.010 for ambulatory surgical centers,” SB 537 states.

According to the authors and sponsors statement of intent, 38 of the 44 clinics that provide abortion services in Texas do not meet these standards.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists submitted a testimony in opposition to the bill.

“ACOG opposes SB 537 by Sen. Deuell because it requires additional standards for abortion facilities that are unnecessary and unsupported by scientific evidence,” the testimony, written by Lisa M. Hollier, chair of ACOG, said. “It harms the public health by creating obstacles in access to safe, legal and accessible abortion services.”

Hollier said that the bill could possibly close an estimated of 37 facilities.

“These facilities may not have the resources required to bring their buildings to ASC [ambulatory surgical center] standards within the timeline of the bill,” Hollier said.

Planned Parenthood also opposes the bill.

“Planned Parenthood is at a high quality of care already,” Alejandra Diaz, communications specialist for the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said.

The bill’s sponsors said that moving abortion clinics under these guidelines will provide Texas women choosing abortion the highest standard of healthcare, but Diaz disagreed with that contention.

“This bill has nothing to do with the health and safety of women,” Diaz said. “There is no medical standing to this bill.”

Section 243.010 says the facilities must contain minimum standards applicable to any ambulatory surgical center for the construction and design, including plumbing, heating, lighting, ventilation and other design standards necessary to ensure the health and safety of patients; the qualifications of the professional staff and other personnel; the equipment essential to the health and welfare of the patients; the sanitary and hygienic conditions within the center and its surroundings; and a quality assurance program for patient care.
The bill’s sponsors said that miscarriages are excluded from the definition of abortion and physicians’ offices and clinics that perform less than 50 abortions in any 12-month period are excluded.

This act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house.

Deuell, Campbell, and Schwertner were not available to comment by deadline.