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Is Pro-Life, Pro-Woman Legislation Reducing The Number Of Abortions?

Recently, it was reported [1] that abortions in the United States are declining. Some argue that this reduction is because of the greater accessibility of contraception.  The facts, however, contradict this.  Rather, there is solid evidence [2] that legislation aimed at protecting human life and the health and safety of women have reduced the number of abortions, a victory for everyone.  Here, we present the specific case of Texas’ H.B. 2 statute that has reduced the number of abortions and closed several abortion clinics in Texas.  After Planned Parenthood brought a challenge to H.B. 2, the courts ruled that H.B. 2 is generally constitutional.  Next term, the Supreme Court will likely determine the constitutionality of H.B. 2 as it applies to two specific localities in Texas.

Texas Legislation: Regulating Abortion Providers

Enacted in July 2013 and designed to protect the health of women and increase the standard of care for women, Texas passed H.B. 2 requiring that abortion personnel have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.  According to one doctor’s testimony during trial, this provision was in place to prevent untrained and incompetent personnel from performing abortions.  The requirement also ensures that abortion clinic personnel know which specialist to contact at the hospital in the event that a patient presents herself to the emergency room. As Planned Parenthood conceded [3], in Texas, approximately 210 women annually are hospitalized after having an abortion.

As just discussed in a brief [4] earlier this week, H.B. 2 also required that abortion clinics meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. This includes, among other things, cleanliness requirements, records systems, staffing requirements, plumbing requirements, and electrical requirements.

Impact Of Legislation Reducing The Abortion Rate

In July of 2014, a report [5] by obstetrician Dr. Daniel Grossman and others of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project concluded that since H.B. 2 went into effect in November 2013, the number of abortion clinics in Texas decreased from 41 to 22.  Dr. Grossman concludes that the “main driver” for the closure of these abortion facilities was the admitting privileges requirement.

More importantly, after H.B. 2 went into effect, there were 13% fewer abortions in Texas.  This reduction is far greater than the approximately 8-9% reduction generally that Dr. Michael New, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, found [6] with laws restricting Medicaid funding for abortions.  Furthermore, according to Dr. Grossman, this decline is “steeper” than both Texas specifically, and the nation generally, witnessed in recent years.  The 13% decline represents a reduction of 4,615 abortions.

Dr. Grossman’s research also found that there was a substantial decline in the number of abortions performed 16 weeks after conception because H.B. 2 requires that later-term abortion procedures must be performed at facilities meeting the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers.  Dr. Grossman speculates that Texas will continue to see a decline in the number of abortion facilities because now the ambulatory surgical center regulations are in effect.

Planned Parenthood Challenges The Constitutionality Of H.B. 2

Planned Parenthood challenged the constitutionality of H.B. 2 twice. It first claimed, unsuccessfully, that the statute was unconstitutional in all applications throughout the State of Texas.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled [7] that the statute was constitutional.

Then, it brought a challenge claiming that the statute, as-applied in McAllen and El Paso, Texas, was unconstitutional.  The Fifth Circuit ruled, [8] narrowly, that the statute is constitutional when applied to the El Paso area and unconstitutional when applied in McAllen, Texas.

On June 29, 2015, the order of the Fifth Circuit Court on McAllen and El Paso was stayed by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissenting from the grant of a stay.  This means that the H.B. 2 statute doesn’t apply to McAllen or El Paso, until the Supreme Court reviews the case.  The case will likely be decided by June, 2016.

Efforts Going Forward

Based upon the analysis in Texas, it does not appear that those who congratulate contraception as the reason for fewer abortions have the better argument.  Indeed, it looks like pro-life efforts in state legislatures are reducing abortions.

Building the culture of life requires that we cultivate a culture that equally loves the woman and the child.  We must build that culture and then encourage our elected representatives to pass legislation which supports and defends it.  Only in this way can we succeed in protecting women and reducing the number of abortions.