Texas’ Anti-Choice Laws Were Actually Counterproductive For Conservatives, Forcing Women To Have Abortions Later

After seemingly taking great pains to hide statewide statistics and information on abortion procedures given in 2014 — aka the first year after Texas imposed highly restrictive laws resulting in the closure of many clinics — the state has finally gotten around to releasing its data. And it’s pretty clear why Texas’ Department of State Health Services was being so secretive, especially in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which ultimately deemed Texas’ anti-choice regulations unconstitutional last month. Between 2013 and 2014, while there were less abortions as a whole, there was a 27 percent increase in second-trimester abortions in Texas, with 4,814 procedures in 2013 and 6,117 in 2014. The big takeaway here is that anti-choice regulations meant to stop abortions don’t actually do much except make abortions happen later.

Of course, research compiled by the Guttmacher Institute pretty much made clear a long time ago that regulations on abortion like mandatory waiting periods, counseling sessions, or limited availability of clinics (which was the case in Texas) don’t actually stop abortions from happening, but only delay or render the circumstances around the abortion slightly more dangerous by forcing women to travel out of state, or even attempt to perform their own abortions.

Women seeking abortions generally don’t just want an abortion like they do an ice cream cone, as the anti-choice movement would like you to believe, but need one, for reasons health-related, financial, or simply because becoming a mother is a pretty big fucking deal and shouldn’t be forced on anyone.

There’s no shame and pretty much no danger in late-term abortions, in which women are literally 10 times less likely to die than after childbirth, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. This number is even greater in a study by the Columbia University Medical Center, which found that women are 14 times less likely to die from abortion complications than they are giving birth.

But given anti-choice lawmakers’ strong support for ridiculous 20-week bans, clearly late-term procedures are something they’d like to prevent, but ultimately were encouraged with the anti-choice restrictions of Texas’ HB2. The law, passed in 2013, required clinics providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and adhere to standards for ambulatory surgical centers, which forced many to close when they couldn’t meet those strict standards.

Pro-Choice Supporters Rally In DC Against Restrictive Abortion Laws
CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“Although second-trimester abortion is very safe, it is associated with a higher risk of complications compared to early abortion, and it’s more expensive for women,” University of California, San Francisco professor Daniel Grossman told NBC News. According to Grossman’s research, delayed abortions were largely caused by the amount of time it took “to find an open clinic or to arrange transportation to a more distant clinic.” It’s worth noting only nine abortion clinics in a state of 5.4 million women of reproductive age met HB2’s requirements.

Additionally, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and other medical professional groups unanimously identified the requirements thrust upon Texas abortion clinics as not only “unnecessary” but ultimately “harmful” to women in a brief sent to the Supreme Court prior to the decision.

So, essentially, the justification that Texas’ HB2 was implemented in the name of protecting women’s health is pretty much entirely invalid, and good on SCOTUS for calling the law out on its bullshit in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision. HB2 was frankly just a costly, large-scale effort to misleadingly portray abortion as dangerous and shameful, and to discourage or outright make it impossible for women to obtain the procedure.

Luckily for the pro-choice movement, and arguably even for the anti-choice movement, it’s now a thing of the past.