It's a nice clinic, it really is. With more space and amenities, it's a credit to the private donors who payed for it and continue to fuel Planned Parenthood's response to the Texas Legislature's crackdown on abortion. It's just unnecessary.
The large janitor's closet, the backup generator, the locker rooms, the extra wide hallways and the special air circulation system that qualify the building as an ambulatory surgical center (ACS) do nothing to promote women's safety. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that Texas' requirement that all abortions be performed at ASCs, as well as that all abortion providers have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic from which they operate, actually increase danger to women. Those with an unwanted pregnancy, the organization's CEO Dr. Hal Lawrence says, are more likely to seek out an alternative means of termination or forego appropriate prenatal care when access to abortion is restricted.
Abortion is an exceedingly safe procedure, much safer, in fact, than carrying a pregnancy to term. It is not the type of procedure that has, in the past, been performed at an ASC.
"An ambulatory surgery center is where you go to have day surgery," says Kelly Hart, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas' director of government relations, "to have your cataracts removed or something like that, but a first trimester abortion procedure is not a surgical procedure in the sense that most people think of a surgical procedure."
The clinic at 7989 W. Virginia Drive, was purchased entirely with money raised from donors for Planned Parenthood's Building Our Future Fund and began serving patients about three weeks ago. It is one of two clinics, and the only Planned Parenthood one, in Dallas that will be able to provide abortions should the whole of House Bill 2 become law.
Whether that will happen is very much in the air right now. Late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel found HB2's ASC requirement unconstitutional. The judged agreed with a group of clinics suing the state that the restrictions placed an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions and chided the state for consulting with discredited anti-abortion activist Vincent Rue to build its defense of the law. Yeakel similarly blocked the first provisions of HB2 to become law, the admitting privilege requirements and restrictions on medical abortions, in 2013 but was overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas has appealed Yeakel's new ruling to the 5th Circuit as well. Unlike in the initial case, the circuit court declined Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's request for a stay of Yeakel's ruling pending the state's appeal, allowing the 15 or so clinics currently performing abortions that are not ASCs to remain open.
The newly purchased clinic is part of an ongoing effort to make sure Planned Parenthood can provide health services to as many women as possible no matter what the 5th Circuit decides or what laws future legislatures pass. Clinics in Fort Worth and Austin, both built before HB2's passage, were constructed to meet ASC standards.
"We believe that women have a constitutional right to this procedure and we're going to do what we can for women who think it's the option for them," Hart says.
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