Whether Texas may impose onerous burdens on the state’s abortion clinics when the evidence shows that the challenged provisions undermine rather than promote women’s health.
This suit challenges two provisions of Texas law. One requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic; the other requires abortion clinics to meet the standards for an ambulatory surgical center.
In its amicus brief, the ACLU argues that courts must examine a state’s claim that its regulatory scheme in fact advances women’s health and that these provisions do not, based not only on the record in Texas but on similar challenges to admitting privilege requirements in Alabama and Wisconsin.
An inside source with knowledge of a cover-up at the Texas Department of State Health Services contacted the ACLU of Texas for legal advice. As the state waited for the Supreme Court to rule in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Texas Department of State Health Services prepared abortion statistics for 2014, the first full year that provisions of HB 2 were in effect. Under instructions from the agency’s General Counsel, the agency concealed the existence of these statistics and lied in response to numerous requests for the data, in violation of the Texas Public Information Act. We filed a public letter outlining the conspiracy and formally requesting the data, facilitating media coverage of the cover-up and fueling speculation over what the numbers would show.
The agency released the data in response to our request. By the time the data were released, our open letter had primed reporters to report on what we already knew the data would show: HB 2’s effects were devastating. There was a 14% drop in abortions overall, with a disproportionate drop in abortions for Hispanic and Native American women. Many border counties saw a disproportionate drop in abortions, and disproportionate drops among Hispanic women. For example, El Paso and Hidalgo Counties saw a 40% drop. The effects on the types of procedures were just as shocking. There was a 70% drop in medication abortions, and according to analysis by the Houston Chronicle, second-trimester abortions increased more than 25%.