In case you thought SB5 sounded pretty O.K.

For anyone who was thinking, “SB5 sounds okay to me,” but maybe felt embarrassed to ask what the fuss was about. I just spent about 20 minutes writing out a response for my “nana,” Diane Nunley. She reacted with a basic question: “What’s the problem?” And based on a superficial understanding of the law, it’s a question a lot of people have that is not being answered. So I’ll try to answer it here.

Her thoughts:

“The bill sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.” Although I am not fully versed in the provisions of this particular bill, and I am pro-choice to a certain point, I cannot see why any of the requirements listed above would not be agreeable to anyone! Twenty weeks of pregnancy is 5 months…a 5-month-old fetus. If a woman wants an abortion, why would she not know it and have one before 20 weeks?? And what on earth is wrong with clinics meeting the same standards as hospitals??? That’s sure what I would prefer. And having a doctor be able to admit me to a hospital should something go wrong is a no-brainer.

It’s so nice to have a discussion like this with a family member, because you know and love one another, and there’s no question that the other is coming from a place of genuine concern, curiosity, and most likely, respect. You have to start from thinking, “I know her. And she’s smart and loving,” and then communicate your views. It’s something I think is sorely lacking in current debate on these issues particularly.

That aside, here’s a brief explanation of the main qualms that “pro-choicers” had with SB5, and why we felt so strongly about Wendy Davis’s heroinism.

The two main points we can probably agree on are: 

First, that sometimes, after twenty weeks, abortions are still something women might consider. For instance, in cases of encephalitic babies, or Tay Sachs babies. No woman should be made to carry a pregnancy to term that will only result in her giving still-birth, or much worse, giving birth to a baby she will watch slowly degenerate over the first two years of its life, for example. The bill didn’t include any such exception. Also, in cases of incest, or rape, even many pro-lifers agree that a woman should be allowed to choose to end a pregnancy. There were no exceptions in this vein, either. A flat out ban on abortions after twenty weeks, while it sounds good on the surface, has the potentially to inflict a lot of pain on a lot of women. 

Second, and on the topic of superficially good-sounding points, the requirement that “clinics meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers” falls under the umbrella of what a lot of pro-choice groups are calling “TRAP” laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers). These regulations are essentially a subversive way to increase the cost of providing abortion beyond what even responsible and caring providers can afford. They do this by requiring such “standard regulations” like requiring clinics to have water fountains in the waiting rooms, requiring that the hallways are a certain width, and requiring a certain number of parking spaces. While these are good regulations for existing and future surgi-centers, the passage of this kind of legislation is a dishonest way to force abortion providers out of business by creating millions of dollars in renovations that they cannot afford. Most clinics work off of donations and government support, and operate out of well-maintained but existing structures. While we all agree that tools should be sterile and doctors should be trained, pro-choice opponents were upset that water fountains might keep a woman who is perhaps 7 week pregnant from being able to procure Mifepristone, for example, which is even a non-surgical form of abortion!

Sub-section to part two are the admitting privileges. Admitting privileges are a superficially good-sounding idea, too. However, many hospitals are run by religious organisations that refuse to give admitting privileges to abortion providers because of their beliefs about abortion. Of course that’s within their rights . . . But almost all hospitals, religiously affiliated or not, restrict admitting privileges to local doctors, which means that abortion providers that “ride circuit” from out of state (and there are many, due to a lack of well-trained, compassionate providers, that serve in as many as three states per week) are not allowed to admit in local hospitals. And many pro-choice opponents of SB5 object to this regulation as unnecessary anyway, since emergency rooms in case of complication would see any woman, regardless of the reason for her emergency. Nothing would prevent the doctor from the clinic from accompanying the woman and explaining her medical history to the other doctors. 

So the problem is that a lot of these regulations are kind of superfluous. And the passage of these superfluous regulations would have resulted in the closure of THIRTY-SEVEN OUT OF FORTY-TWO of Texas’s abortion clinics. That’s ONE clinic every 53,764 SQUARE MILES. That’s insane! Coupled with the fact that many women who seek the services of clinics are low-income, unlikely to be able to afford travel and accommodations, and probably receive wellness services at these clinics (because we haven’t even touched on the fact that the majority of these clinics do provide check-ups, gynecological services, sex education) . . .  

The major MAJOR problem is that Texas Republicans are behaving badly. Many have taken to Twitter to admit that the main purpose of SB5 (TRAP) is to close as many abortion providers as possible. While they claim to have women’s best interest at heart, this bill would have severely restricted not only a woman’s bodily autonomy, where ever you stand on that, but health and wellness services for TONS of low-income Texas women! And then, last night, their blatant disregard for even their own rules of procedure . . .

I completely respect the religious and philosophical viewpoints of my many friends and family on abortion, and I share many of them. However, I believe the proper expression of these beliefs is ministry to women and philosophical discussion to bring them in line with that point of view. I believe in complete, informed consent, presentation of alternatives . . .  It’s a pro-life right under the First Amendment! And think: if every woman agreed with the pro-life viewpoint, who cares what the laws are? No one would do it anyway! 

However, forcing a woman to make a choice by restricting her access and using underhanded tactics is not okay. That’s why I stood with Wendy Davis.

Update: This article from RH Reality Check is a transcript of testimony on the new SB 1, which makes a lot of these same points. 

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