Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 7, 2014

New Texas abortion law closes 2 more clinics

(Continued)

The closest abortion clinic to Beaumont is in Houston. And for women in the Rio Grande Valley, the nearest clinics will be in Corpus Christi and San Antonio, a journey that means passing through immigration checkpoints that require U.S. identification or visas.

Paula Saldana, a women's health care educator in McAllen who volunteers for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said poor women in the valley relied on the clinic.

"When women come up to me and they are in desperate circumstances and they ask where they can go, I will not have a place to send them," she said.

Although groups are raising money to help pay travel costs for women who need abortions, it is still difficult for them to take time away from family and work, Saldana added.

The admitting privilege requirement has become a favored tool for anti-abortion lawmakers across the country to close clinics. In Mississippi, a federal judge has blocked enforcement of a similar requirement because it would shut down the state's last clinic. Alabama passed such a requirement last year, and Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a similar measure.

Most doctors do not have or need admitting privileges, and hospitals usually only grant them to doctors who routinely have patients in need of hospital care. The Texas Hospital Association opposed the requirement, saying admitting privileges were not necessary to provide women emergency care from abortion complications.

The law, which also bans abortions after 20 weeks, was the subject of the largest protests in a generation last summer at the state Capitol.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, gained national attention for a 13-hour filibuster that temporarily stopped the law. Gov. Rick Perry immediately called the Legislature back into special session, and Republican lawmakers easily passed it.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Miller, Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic operators, saying that the law has no purpose but to shut down clinics. The center won in district court, but the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped enforcement of the ruling and is considering an appeal by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who argues the law is constitutional.

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