Monday, July 28, 2014

Victory for life, and potential pitfalls, in the Lone Star State

Above: underprivileged children from the Rio Grande Valley, a low-income area
of Texas where abortion advocates bemoan the lack of "access" caused by HB2.
This photo is from Buckner International, a faith-based charity that has been at work
in the Rio Grande Valley since 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade.
[Today's guest post by Rebecca Downs is part of our paid blogging program.]

The pro-life movement is celebrating the results of the omnibus abortion legislation, HB2, that passed about a year ago. A new study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPep) found that the abortion rate in Texas has already dropped 13%. And a significant portion of the law isn't even in effect yet! After September 1, according to the Austin Chronicle, fewer than ten abortion businesses are expected to remain; Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of the Whole Women's Health abortion center in Austin, says "Barring some miracle in the courts, we really have no choice; the state is forcing us to close."

The Chronicle article emphasizes that Whole Women's Health doesn't just do abortions; in fact, it claims only half of its clients get abortions. But its author (whose bias in favor of abortion is obvious) fails to point out that Miller is incorrect: Whole Women's Health is not, in fact, "forced" to close. Miller could cease doing abortions and continue offering the "annual exams, pap smears, birth control, emergency contraception, and counseling" that are supposedly so important to her. Instead, she's closing up shop entirely—perhaps because non-abortion services aren't as lucrative.

Abortion proponents are also claiming, as usual, that HB2 will not prevent any abortions, but instead, merely cause women who would have had legal abortions to have illegal ones instead. That's at least partially debunked by the TxPEP study, but pro-lifers should not ignore this issue.

The abortion movement's stance is captured well in this Cosmopolitan piece by Jill Filipovic. Writing about women who cannot get past a highway checkpoint on the way to an abortion center, she says:
When the checkpoint means they can't drive to San Antonio, some women go through with pregnancies they don't want. Others turn to Cytotec. Still others find out about unlicensed providers who perform cheap abortions out of their homes.
That's the sole mention of women who continue their pregnancies. There's not a word about the children who will get a chance at life.

Filipovic continues:
Along the Texas-Mexico border, 12 percent of women report taking something to try and induce an abortion before coming to a clinic (statewide, the number is 7 percent). And that number counts only women who self-reported and women who eventually made it to an abortion clinic—the actual number of women who attempt to self-abort is surely much higher.
The study Cosmopolitan cites actually predates HB2. The authors blamed "poverty, access to misoprostol from Mexico, as well as familiarity with the practice of self-induction in Latin America." Even when legal abortion business were abundant, illegal and herbal methods were apparently the preferred option for many women.

The pro-life movement needs to be cognizant of this reality and make a special effort to reach out to these desperate women. The decrease in abortion centers after HB2 has received excessive media coverage, with little press for the more than 100 Texas charities serving pregnant mothers in need. Under those circumstances, it's little wonder that some women feel that they have no choice but to have an illegal abortion. If we aren't careful, the abortion movement's PR campaign could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The TxPEP numbers are indeed worth celebrating. A 13% reduction in abortions represents thousands of lives saved. But we must resist the temptation to pat ourselves on the back and move on to the next legislative effort. We must follow through and work to improve the lives of impoverished Texas women and their children. Otherwise, victory in Texas will become bittersweet.


JDC said...

"Barring some miracle in the courts, we really have no choice; the state is forcing us to close."

So does anyone have any idea what the chances of some sort of "miracle in the Courts" are? I know the Fifth Circuit chose to uphold other portions of the law, but my understanding is that the ambulatory surgical centre provision has not been ruled on yet. Is it likely they would strike that doen but uphold the rest?

Maria said...

Great piece. Thanks, Rebecca and SPL!

Rebecca Rose Downs said...

Good question/point! The court did upholding the provisions which there were lawsuits against, which had to do with following FDA regulations when dispensing medication abortion and admitting privileges. Hagstrom Miller and her group are suing against the requirement that facilities operate as ambulatory surgical places do, but from such a statement I think it's unlikely it will be struck down. It could even go all the way to the Supreme Court though, so we'll see I suppose...

JDC said...

True, I guess we can't find out for sure until it happens.

dudebro said...

Good information. Thanks.