Abortion clinics in Texas are hurting under the limitations on abortions and the threat of even spurious lawsuits as a result of Senate Bill 8. The law prohibits abortions in Texas after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six weeks’ gestation.
Some clinics have ceased performing abortions altogether out of fear of the cost and burden of dealing with lawsuits even if they abide by Senate Bill 8. Abortion workers are quitting in droves, as they are also wary of being sued. Under Senate Bill 8, anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion after an unborn child’s heartbeat is detectable can face a lawsuit, and the plaintiff can receive a $10,000 minimum award.
The troubles at Texas clinics are a sign that laws limiting late-term abortions can go on to impact earlier-term abortions as part of clinics’ downward spirals.
In 2018, 64 percent of abortions in the United States were performed after six weeks’ gestation, according to the CDC. The loss of those patients is now sapping Texas abortion clinics’ earnings. Abortions are reproductive clinics’ primary cash cow. Other services, like providing birth control, don’t compare with the revenue generated by abortions.
To add to Texas abortion clinics’ pain, surgical abortion procedures, which are performed later in pregnancy, are more lucrative than dispensing Mifepristone and Misoprostol, the drugs given for a medication abortion, which can be prescribed up to 10 weeks into pregnancy.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, the median cost for a medication abortion is $535. A dilation and evacuation abortion, which is typically performed from nine to 20 weeks into a pregnancy and involves breaking up the unborn child and suctioning the various body parts out, costs $500 to $3,000 or more. Abortions performed from 16 to 24 weeks typically cost anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000.
Following the implementation of Senate Bill 8, Planned Parenthood of South Texas paused all abortions at three locations in San Antonio on September 1, including those performed before a fetal heartbeat is detected. All abortions at these three locations remain on hold.
Jeffrey Hons, the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of South Texas, told the Texas Tribune that combating lawsuits and proving that their clinics’ abortions were performed in accordance with the law would take time and resources away from other patients.
“We have responsibilities to all of those people, and it was weighing all of that,” he said.
He noted Planned Parenthood’s other missions of providing birth control, STD testing, and transgender hormone treatments.
Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said that 20 of 23 Texas’ abortion clinics are currently operating. It is unclear how many abortions are currently being performed in Texas.
Abortion clinics in Texas are facing severe problems with maintaining adequate staff.
The administrator of an abortion clinic in Houston, Linda Shafer, told the Wall Street Journal: “My staff are scared to come to work. I usually have eight. I have two or three today.”
And over half of the employees at one of Texas’ biggest abortion providers, Whole Women’s Health, quit following the implementation of the law. On August 31, the day before the law went into effect, there were 17 workers at Whole Women’s Health clinics. The next day, September 1, only 8 workers remained.
The founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, Amy Hagstrom Miller, said, “Just because we are complying with SB 8 doesn’t stop extremists from saying that we are defying SB 8.… Even with compliance, there is a reasonable amount of threat that our staff and our doctors have to weigh. There is still so much risk to them.”
Miller added that most of the staff who stayed on only agreed to do so as long as legal counsel was preemptively secured.
The 19th, a new feminist publication, concluded that Senate Bill 8 is having a “chilling effect” on the “vast network of abortion care services and support.”
Pro-life advocates view the shutdown of all abortions in some clinics and staffing stortages as welcome side effects of the Texas law. Chelsey Youman, the Texas state director of pro-life group Human Coalition, said the discontinuation of all procedures at some clinics was a win as abortion “should be unthinkable and unnecessary.”
Many Texas women are now turning to out-of-state clinics for abortions.
The executive administrator of Tulsa Women’s Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said that 70 percent of patients at her abortion clinic are now from Texas. She added that the clinic has tripled its number of daily appointments.
But traveling to an out-of-state abortion clinic is more difficult for women, as the average Texas woman of childbearing age is 247 miles away from an out-of-state abortion clinic. They are on average 17 miles from an in-state abortion clinic.
In 2010, Texas had more than 40 abortion clinics, but more than half closed altogether during the legal battle over a 2013 Texas law that required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and for clinics to qualify as ambulatory sugical centers. The Supreme Court struck down the law in a 5-3 decision in 2016.
It remains to be seen if any abortion clinics will close altogether as a result of Senate Bill 8.
In October, a federal judge, Robert Pitman, an appointee of President Barack Obama, will hear the Department of Justice’s request to freeze the abortion law. He could allow Texas clinics to resume performing abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.