Austin, TX — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding restrictions that threaten to further devastate access to safe, legal abortion in Texas. If the Supreme Court does not reverse the lower court’s ruling, it would leave the 5.4 million women of reproductive age in Texas with only 10 health centers that provide safe, legal abortion in the entire state—down from approximately 40 health centers before passage of this dangerous law. The case is Whole Women’s Health, et al. v. Cole, et al. and the plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Within hours of the Texas restrictions taking effect last October 2014 and before the Supreme Court stepped in to temporarily block the restrictions, Planned Parenthood witnessed the catastrophic impact to women across the state — with health centers inundated with calls from frightened and upset patients, and women lined up outside health center doors, waiting to see if they could still access the care they needed at the Planned Parenthood health centers that remained open. In Houston, Planned Parenthoodreported that its call volume from patients seeking abortion services increased 170 percent when the law was in effect. Planned Parenthood in Austin received seven times as many calls about abortion services, as compared to typical averages. Across Central and North Texas, Planned Parenthood saw a daily average of four times as many calls from women seeking abortions. Many of these calls were from women living far outside the affiliates’ service regions, in cities such as Midland and McAllen, where providers had closed. Doris Dixon, a call center director for Planned Parenthood in Houston, shared a heartbreaking account of a woman who traveled from out of state and stayed in Houston overnight, only to find that she couldn’t obtain a procedure, writing: “I don’t know what will happen to her. I don’t know that I will ever stop thinking about her. And she is just one woman whose life has been turned upside down by this law.”
Statement from Yvonne Gutierrez, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes:
“We have seen the devastating consequences for women firsthand when this law went into effect last October — with patients lined up outside Planned Parenthood health centers and women frantically calling to get the care they need. If the Court upholds this clinic shutdown law, it could create a world where even though abortion is legal, it is completely out of reach for many women. A woman’s right to make personal medical decisions about abortion shouldn’t depend on where she lives. Make no mistake—this is part of a broader agenda to ban safe, legal abortion completely. In fact, the author of this very law has said she is ‘proud that Texas always takes the lead in trying to turn back what started with Roe v. Wade.’ This is not what Texans want–which is why thousands turned out to protest this dangerous law when it was jammed through the legislature.”
Statement from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“If the court allows this clinic shutdown law to stand, it would essentially take many women back to a time before abortion was legal. Texas paints a devastating picture of what’s at stake for women across the country — where women are already traveling hundreds of miles, crossing state lines, and waiting weeks to get an abortion, if they can at all. A woman’s very right to make personal medical decisions about abortion is now before the court. These clinic shutdown laws are a clear attempt to end women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and this is not what the public wants. When this law passed, it sparked historic protests in Texas and across the country. For more than 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that the Constitution protects every woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions about abortion — and Americans support that right.”
These restrictions have already shut down health centers across Texas, and women are already struggling to access safe, legal abortion. In fact, new research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) found that some women are waiting as long as 20 days to access abortion in Texas. If the Supreme Court does not reverse the appellate ruling, the situation could get even worse. Researchers estimate that the number of women seeking abortions at the remaining 10 health centers would increase dramatically beyond existing capacity, forcing longer delays that would nearly double the percentage of abortions in the second trimester. While abortion is an extremely safe procedure, it’s safest the earliest it’s provided.
Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans support access to safe and legal abortion. A recent Bloomberg Politics national poll found that 67% of Americans surveyed said the Supreme Court was right to rule that women have a constitutional right to abortion and agree with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. A VOX/Perry Undem poll found that more Americans now consider themselves pro-choice than pro-life. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials don’t want to see Roe overturned, and 72 percent of Republicans think abortion should be available.
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV) is the nonpartisan policy, advocacy and political arm of
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.