An abortion clinic in El Paso has reopened and resumed scheduling appointments after closing in April of 2014.
This clinic is a plaintiff in a case that could go before the Supreme Court in a lawsuit involving state restrictions on abortion facilities and doctors passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013 and adopted into law the same year.
Reproductive health rights activists say, however, that too many Texas women still don’t have access to care.
This El Paso clinic, called Reproductive Services, will offer abortions, family planning and well women’s services. It also works with an adoption agency for patients who have unwanted pregnancies.
“This is a huge development for women in West Texas,” says Stephanie Toti, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is defending this clinic in an ongoing legal challenge against the restrictive 2013 Texas abortion law called HB 2.
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked certain provisions of the law that add restrictions on abortion physicians and clinics. Those provisions require doctors to receive admitting privileges at hospitals 30 miles from their clinics, and clinics to adopt the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. The Supreme Court stepped in after the provisions were upheld by a lower federal court – the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Toti hopes the High Court will take up the full case in its upcoming term starting in October.
“The outcome of this case will have impact not just in Texas but nationwide, because a number of states have followed Texas’ lead in enacting sham laws to shut down abortion clinics,” she says.
Alyssah Roth is also happy to see the clinic reopen. Roth’s the president of a nonprofit called the West Fund. It helps women afford the full cost of an abortion in Texas or in another state, like New Mexico. She points out, however, that undocumented women in West Texas aren't able to travel to Las Cruces or New Mexico.
“It’s really powerful to see an abortion clinic reopening in a place that is so cast aside, that is so impoverished like El Paso,” Roth says.
Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, director of Policy and Advocacy for the Texas Latina Advocacy Network, an extension of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, was driving Tuesday to speak with women in a colonia without electricity, outside of Brownsville.
She says one clinic in El Paso and one in McAllen aren’t enough.
“Yes, there’s access, but only for people who can drive, only for people who have legal status, only for people who have the resources to make the trip” to the metropolitan areas that have a clinic, she says. “We still have clinics operating with limited hours, we still have clinics operating with limited staff, and this is confusing for the community. Many women have heard mixed messages about whether their clinics are open or closed, and whether they can continue to be seen regardless of their immigration status.”
Texas had about 40 clinics in 2012. Now it has about half that number.