On Tuesday, Central Texas resident Sarah Slamen took the Internet by storm after video of her fiery speech, blasting the Texas Senate subcommittee responsible for passing the state’s anti-abortion bill, SB1, went viral.
“Thank you for being you, Texas legislature,” she said. “You have radicalized hundreds of thousands of us, and no matter what you do for the next 22 days, women and their allies are coming for you.”
“This is a farce,” she declared moments later, after committee members had cut off her speaking time and Texas state troopers were dragging her from the microphone. “The Texas legislature is a bunch of liars who hate women.”
Slamen’s anger at SB1, and the anger of women like her in Texas, has been explained in the media solely as a stand for the pro-choice movement—if SB1 eventually becomes law, it will ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In the wider realm of ripple-effect reality, however, Slamen and advocates like her are well aware that problems with SB1 extend far beyond the struggle to preserve abortion rights.
“Everyone is focusing on the abortion piece,” says Carrie Tilton-Jones, president of the Austin, Texas, chapter of the National Organization for Women. “But there has been a lack of focus on the continual chipping away of women’s access to healthcare.”
Indeed, not only does SB1 impose increased restrictions on abortion procedures, it also requires that medical clinics that provide abortions must become so-called “ambulatory surgical centers”—a massive and expensive differentiation that will essentially demand small healthcare clinics equip themselves with the same gear and policy standards as hospitals.
Thirty-seven of 42 Texas abortion facilities do not currently meet ASC standards.
“Forcing clinics to become ASC’s doesn’t make any medical, logistical sense,” says Tilton-Jones of the provision. “Family planning clinics keep costs low with general anesthesia. They make no incisions. That’s the risky stuff. Ambulatory care costs three to five times more to operate. These clinics only have two years to meet the standards of a mini-hospital. There’s no way they can pull it off.”
Imposing a blanket restriction on abortion would be one travesty.
But the ASC provision in SB1 will not only effectively end the practice of abortion in most of the state of Texas, it will also force the closure of medical facilities that provide free or low-cost healthcare services specifically geared toward women.
Thirty-one percent of Texan women are currently uninsured. For many poor and rural women, family planning clinics are their only source for sexually transmitted disease screenings, contraception, pap smears and screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure.
“For many Texas women, their annual women’s health checkup at these clinics is the only access to medical care they’ll get all year,” says Tilton Jones.
Worse yet, a cynical pall hangs over SB1’s ASC provision.
As the Texas Observer first reported, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s sister Milla Perry Jones is vice president of government relations at United Surgical Partners International. Her role for that company is to lobby on behalf of ASC’s.
“This is part of a larger pattern of the politics of abortion compromising access to women’s healthcare,” says Tilton-Jones. “There is a particular set of legislators who hate Planned Parenthood and want to put them out of business. The collateral damage is to rural women, poor women, and women of color.”
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