Abortion providers battle proposed limits

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

Texas Planned Parenthood abortion providers and affiliates have filed a joint lawsuit in federal court to block two provisions of a recently passed bill, Texas House Bill 2, which would place certain restrictions on abortion clinics, effective Oct. 29. The case will be heard on Oct. 21.

“We are challenging the provisions of the bill that will have the most immediate and far-reaching impact on women in our community and in our state,” said Natalie Kelinske, media representative for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and Waco.

One provision in the bill requires physicians to administer medicinal abortions before seven weeks of pregnancy.

The other provision states physicians who provide abortions must obtain admitting privileges, which are the right of a doctor to admit patients to a hospital or medical center, within 30 miles of where the abortion is being performed in order to provide specific diagnostic or therapeutic services.

Kelinske said the family planning center of Planned Parenthood, which provides preventative health care including cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease testing and birth control, wouldn’t be impacted by the new bill, but women’s options to receive abortions would be limited.

“This law could cause at least one-third of the state’s licensed health centers, which provide safe and legal abortion, to stop providing that service next month,” a Planned Parenthood press release said.

Kelinske said she does not think the bill protects women’s safety.

“The law threatens the health of Texas women who have made the complex and deeply personal and constitutionally-protected decision to end a pregnancy, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure women have access to safe, legal abortions,” Kelinske said.

John Pisciotta, director of anti-abortion activist group Pro-Life Waco, said he agrees that Planned Parenthood is supporting a constitutional right, but said there is nothing stating the government can’t place regulations on abortion.

“Some things that were constitutional rights, we look back at them and regret that there ever was such an interpretation,” Pisciotta said. “We had a constitutional right to own a slave.”

Dr. Nicole McAninch, a lecturer in the child and family studies department at Baylor, said she understands Planned Parenthood’s position in challenging the bill. While the majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are services like checkups that promote women’s health, McAninch said, most of their funding comes from abortion services.

“Essentially, they will lose significant funding needed to be able to stay open if they’re unable to perform abortions,” she said.

Kelinske said the admitting privileges portion of the bill will prevent many women from making certain decisions about reproductive health care, because some physicians might not be able to receive admitting privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with their quality and or credentials, but rather with their location.

“Medical experts have agreed and testified all along that admitting privileges are not necessary for physicians to provide abortion or any other procedure that can be safely performed in a health care setting,” she said.

Kelinske said Planned Parenthood believes the bill’s restrictions placed on medicated abortion are inferior and outdated methods, and they deprive women of the what she calls a “safe, private and less invasive method of ending a pregnancy.”

Pisciotta said the Food and Drug Administration has allowed medicated abortion with tight protocol on its administration.

“It requires that they follow that protocol and that abortion facilities follow the FDA protocol,” Pisciotta said.

Kelinske said Planned Parenthood believes this provision goes against medical research that has proven that current protocol for administering medication is more safe and effective than those the law proposes.

“None of them do anything to protect women’s health and safety,” Kelinske said of the provisions. “They’re all medically unnecessary, all restricting a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion.”

The medicated pill option of abortion is something women can do at home, McAninch said. It’s designed to induce labor, and the process the body takes to expel the growing fetus could be serious. She said most women don’t anticipate the level of pain and bleeding that comes with the process.

Pisciotta said he agrees with McAninch about women being under-informed about what happens during medicated abortion. He said one of the things abortion clinics will say to a woman is there will be some bleeding when the abortion happens, and that it will be like having a heavy menstrual period.

“Many women will say, ‘My gosh, I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,’” he said. “And they’re there to experience it on their own.”

Pisciotta said he acknowledges that women wanting abortions might have to travel to receive one. He said he believes the provisions of the bill are beneficial.

“All the provisions except the one about no abortions after 20 weeks are elevating the standard of medical care, in order not to make it really second-rate,” he said. “There have been cases this year of women who have died from abortions.”

McAninch said if women do not have an abortion clinic nearby, they might seek abortion services at places that may not meet medical standards.

Planned Parenthood and affiliates plan on discussing two other provisions included in the bill concerning the period of gestation at which it is legal to abort a fetus, and the licensing of abortion centers as ambulatory surgical centers, Kelinske said. These provisions will not be put into action until a later time, however, so the focus for Planned Parenthood is on more pressing provisions based on time and extent of impact, Kelinske said.