Amy Hagstrom Miller fired 34 people in November. “It’s hard to look people in the eye and say they don’t have a job anymore, not because of anything they or we did incorrectly or because we weren’t caring for women in a fabulous way,” she says. “It’s illogical.” Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Whole Woman’s Health, based in Austin, had to stop or sharply curtail abortions at four of her six Texas clinics because a new state law requires doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. To get an abortion, the mostly poor women who relied on Miller’s establishment in McAllen, on the state’s border with Mexico, will now have to drive 150 miles to Corpus Christi or to the local flea market, where illegal, do-it-yourself drugs start at $15 a pill.
At least a dozen clinics in Texas have closed their doors or stopped offering the procedure in the past month after a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court let the new statute take effect. The Texas law is emblematic of a shift in the tactics of abortion opponents: State-level laws targeting women and providers have become a more effective tool than the past noisy clinic blockades and violence against doctors. Since 2011, legislatures in 30 mostly Republican-controlled states have passed 203 abortion restrictions, about as many as in all of the prior decade. At least 73 clinics have closed or stopped performing abortions. New laws are responsible for roughly half of the closures, while declining demand, industry consolidation, and crackdowns on unfit providers have also contributed to the drop.