Reproductive care options for Hays County residents and Texas State students will not be largely affected by Governor Rick Perry’s signing of House Bill 2.
Perry signed HB 2 into law this summer. The bill authorizes new regulations that will close 37 out of 42 abortion providers in Texas if they are unable to comply with the new laws by Oct. 29. There are no abortion providers in Hays County. Emilio Carranco, director of the Texas State Student Health Center, attributes this fact to previous cuts in the state budget that defunded women’s health programs.
Physicians performing the procedure are required under HB 2 to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from the facility. Physicians must administer drugs in person to induce the abortion for patients, according to the bill.
HB 2 prohibits abortions at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The exceptions include cases of possible death, substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman or severe fetal abnormalities. It required abortion facilities to convert to ambulatory surgical centers by Sept. 1, according to the bill. These centers are defined as “modern health care facilities focused on providing same-day surgical care including diagnostic and preventive procedures,” according to the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association.
Carranco said approximately 60 percent of Texas State’s student population is female. He said it is important the Student Health Center gives women options by offering contraception and well-woman exams.
“Whenever we have a patient who is pregnant, our main focus is to be supportive, and to provide information for an informed decision,” Carranco said. “If (abortion) is her choice, we do refer to clinics in Austin and San Antonio.”
The Planned Parenthood facility in Austin and a clinic operated by Whole Woman’s Health in San Antonio are two of five clinics in Texas that meet ambulatory surgical center standards, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The South Austin Planned Parenthood clinic serves a large number of Hays County residents. It is preparing for an influx of clients from other parts of Texas as clinics in rural areas begin shutting down, said Brittany Yelverton, community outreach specialist at Planned Parenthood.
“A year is very quick, but we’re working to serve the needs of the community,” Yelverton said. “Right now, we’re waiting to hear from Texas Health and Human Services to see if there will be any changes in the drafting of the rules.”
Carrie Williams, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokesperson, said the commission officials cannot provide exemptions to the bill but can advise on different ways to implement it.
Fatimah Gifford, spokesperson for Whole Woman’s Health, said she does not believe the rules of the bill will be mitigated in any way before they go into effect. She said Whole Women’s Health is working to accommodate patients from other parts of Texas where the facilities will not be able to comply with the new laws.
Carranco said Texas State students would not be impacted as much as individuals from more rural communities.
“There will be fewer, limited options,” Carranco said. “But the choice will still be there.”