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States With More Abortion Restrictions Score Low on Women's Health 

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Photo by mirsasha/Flickr

A new report released today by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Ibis Reproductive Health research organization shows that states with more abortion restrictions also score poorly on overall women and child well-being outcomes. Unsurprisingly, Texas performs low among the states, challenging the claims made by anti-abortion lawmakers that imposing tough restrictions promotes the health and safety of women.

“This report exposes the flimsy claims of politicians who have been shutting down women’s health care providers under the patently false pretext of protecting women’s health,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The real goal of these restrictions on abortion has never been to protect women, but rather to cut off access to safe, legal care for women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy."

In measuring the overall well-being of women and children, researchers found that Texas, with 12 of the 14 abortion restrictions included in the study on the books, ranks 40th among the states in overall women’s and children’s well-being. Researchers also scored each state based on four topics: women’s health outcomes, children’s health outcomes, social determinants of health, and policies that support women and children. Texas scored low for women’s health and children’s health, as well as social determinants of health, and scored near the middle of the pack among states for policies that support women and children.

CRR and Ibis Reproductive Health are both involved in the challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2, which in part requires that physicians performing abortions obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requires that clinics meet expensive ambulatory surgical center requirements that national medical groups have deemed medically unnecessary. Both restrictions were included in the report’s list of 14 restrictions studied, as well as others Texas women are familiar with: a mandatory pre-abortion sonogram, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, and a limit on the use of medical abortion, to name a few.

“Women do not need any more laws that pretend to protect their health and safety while putting both in jeopardy, they need the real thing,” Northup said.

Texas is ground zero when it comes to lawmakers playing politics with women’s health and access to safe and legal abortion care. Last summer, even as physicians, legislators, and thousands of Texas women spoke out against the omnibus House Bill 2, anti-choice lawmakers and the state leadership stopped at nothing to pass the law, which has so far led to the loss of half the state’s abortion clinics. According to Ibis Reproductive Health, nearly 300,000 women of reproductive age in Texas live more than 200 miles from a clinic.

Texas was expected to lose all but seven or eight once the law took full effect Sept 1, but U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel blocked the ASC requirement from taking full effect statewide and blocked the hospital admitting privileges requirement as applied to one clinic in El Paso and one in McAllen. His decision meant the additional clinics that were projected to close could remain open for the time being. Attorney General Greg Abbott requested an emergency stay and appealed Yeakel’s decision to the 5th Circuit Court Of Appeals, which denied his request the state be able to immediately enforce the law. After lawyers from both sides of the case presented oral arguments for a three-judge panel in September, abortion providers await an opinion on whether Texas can immediately enforce the law.

Texas lawmakers also have a track record of putting politics before women’s access to preventive care and birth control. In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut state funding for family planning by two-thirds and implemented a tiered funding strategy to keep affiliates of Planned Parenthood (these are clinics that are part of the network but that do not perform abortions) from getting state dollars. As a result, more than 60 family planning clinics shut down statewide. While the 2013 Texas Legislature restored the funding that was cut in 2011, the program is still only reaching one-third of the statewide need. And family planning clinics that closed as a result of the loss of funding can’t magically reopen overnight. In 2011, lawmakers also wrote Planned Parenthood health clinics (again, clinics that do not perform abortions) out of the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, resulting in the loss of federal matching dollars, the loss of the program’s single largest provider, and fewer Medicaid-eligible but non-pregnant women accessing birth control through that program.

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