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For the First Time, New Research Details the Impact of Texas' Abortion Law on Women

TxPEP Research Finds That When Clinics Closed as a Result of HB2, Women Faced a Variety of Obstacles that Delayed Care and Prevented Some from Obtaining a Desired Abortion

AUSTIN (January 19, 2016) — A new study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) finds that following the enactment of Texas’ law restricting abortion, HB2, women who sought abortion care at Texas clinics experienced numerous barriers accessing care, forcing some to obtain abortions later in pregnancy, and in a few cases, continue an unwanted pregnancy. The study, which was published online in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception, is the first study to document women’s experiences seeking abortion care shortly after clinic closures associated with the enforcement of a restrictive abortion law.

TxPEP conducted 23 interviews with women who either had their abortion appointments cancelled when clinics closed or who sought care at closed clinics shortly after HB2 was enforced. Women reported a lack of information and confusion about which clinics were left open, often calling several clinics to find an affordable provider they could travel to. Many women also faced substantial added travel and hotel costs when seeking abortion services.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, a TxPEP investigator and Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, said, “This study adds to our previous research documenting the negative impact of HB2 on women in Texas and demonstrates that the sudden closure of clinics created significant obstacles to obtain care, forcing some women to obtain abortion later than they wanted, which increases the risks and cost—and forcing others to continue with an unwanted pregnancy. Other research has documented serious health and social problems for women forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, including medical complications of pregnancy and intimate partner violence.”

The study found that women also experienced delays in receiving care. After being turned away from a closed clinic, eight women had to wait more than a week to obtain an abortion. Two of these women were not seen until after 12 weeks of pregnancy despite initially seeking abortion care in the first trimester. In addition, two women were unable to obtain an abortion at all. Both lived in areas of Texas that were left without an abortion provider after HB2, and both had initially sought services early in their pregnancies. They ended up continuing their pregnancies because they did not have the resources to travel to another clinic.

Previous research from TxPEP indicated that abortions declined 13 percent in the first 6 months after HB2 was enforced compared to one year prior, and the proportion of abortions performed in the second trimester increased following HB2’s enforcement. These interviews put a human face on these statistics, showing how women were delayed, and in some cases prevented altogether, from obtaining the legal abortion care they sought.

Currently the United States Supreme Court is considering Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole to decide the fate of HB2. Should the Court decide to uphold the law, 8 of Texas’s current 18 facilities providing abortion care would close, leaving 10 abortion clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age.

Dr. Grossman said, “If HB2 is upheld and additional clinics close, we anticipate even worse disruptions in services than we saw in 2013 and 2014. In addition to confusion about which clinics are open and longer distances to get to these clinics, our research indicates that wait times to get an appointment will likely increase in most cities across the state, as they recently have in Dallas and Ft. Worth, because the 10 remaining facilities will not be able to meet the demand for services statewide.”

About the Study

Data for this study come from qualitative interviews with 23 women aged 18 and older who had appointments scheduled when abortion clinics closed after HB2 enforcement, or who sought abortion care at closed clinics shortly thereafter. Interviews were conducted from November 2013 to November 2014.

About TxPEP

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project,(TxPEP) is a five-year comprehensive effort to document and analyze the impact of the measures affecting reproductive health passed by the 82nd and 83rd Texas Legislatures. The project team includes researchers at the University of Texas Population Research Center, the University of California San Francisco, Ibis Reproductive Health, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The project is supported by grants from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the Society of Family Planning. Infrastructure support for the Population Research Center is provided by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

If you would like to receive more information about this topic or schedule an interview with Dr. Grossman, please contact Laura Dixon at ldixon@prc.utexas.edu or (512) 788-2653.