Texas Is Making Abortion More Dangerous

Women's health deserves better.

Photographer: Jana Birchum/Getty Images

Defenders of a Texas law that restricts abortion clinics say its main purpose is to protect women's health. So far, however, it has mainly undermined their safety.

QuickTake The Vanishing U.S. Abortion Clinic

Since 2013, when the law began requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals, the number of clinics providing abortion services in Texas has fallen by more than half, from 42 to 18. There's no proof that this in any way "elevated" care, as Ken Paxton, the state's attorney general, claims. But many women in the state -- an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 -- have since tried to end a pregnancy on their own, according to research at the University of Texas.

Many of these women attempted to self-induce abortion by taking misoprostol, a drug that is sometimes used in combination with RU-486, which is available without a prescription in some pharmacies in Mexico. Others used herbs, homeopathic treatments or even more dubious procedures, including alcohol, illegal drugs or punches to the abdomen.

The Texas law, which the Supreme Court agreed last week to review, was never truly meant to protect women's health. The legislators who pushed it wanted to restrict abortions without running afoul of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to personal privacy that includes the right to abortion.

Another part of the same Texas law requiring that abortion clinics upgrade to meet the standards of ambulatory surgery centers has been on hold, and it now awaits the Supreme Court's decision. This further restriction would almost certainly force more clinics to close.

If the court's conservative majority wants to set unreasonable limits on abortion, it should do so forthrightly -- by overturning Roe, not by sanctioning Texas's subterfuge and misdirection. If they want to be honest about it, the justices will have to invalidate either the Texas law or the constitutional right to abortion. Given their own precedents, which have correctly established abortion as legal in the U.S., it shouldn't be a hard choice.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.