Wednesday, July 20, 2016

After SCOTUS Case, Texas Shares Data Showing Latina Women Bore Brunt of Texas Abortion Restrictions

Dallas Morning News (July 18, 2016): Hispanic women bore brunt of Texas abortion law, data shows, by J. David Swaine and Brittney Martin:

Data released by Texas 3 days after the Supreme Court decision striking down two provisions of a 2013 law imposing unnecessary and onerous restrictions on abortion providers confirmed that law severely burdened women's access to abortion and that Latina women were particularly hard hit.  The ACLU sought release of the data in June, asserting that the data was ready to be published in March, but that it was withheld by "upper level supervisors" at the Texas Department of Health Services.

The Department of Health data shows that HB2 had a disproportionate affect on Latina women.  The first full year the restrictions went into effect, abortions in the state dropped 14%. Among Latina women the drop was 18%.  Most of the decline resulted from clinic closures in the Rio Grande Valley which is predominately Latino.  In the Valley's Hidalgo County, Latina women had 60% fewer abortions and in Cameron County, the second largest county in the Valley, there was a 49% decrease.

Women living in the Texas Panhandle, West Texas and the Valley where women were facing the longest driving distances to get to abortion providers experienced the biggest drop in abortions.

"The data shows not only that the drop in the number of safe, legal abortions provided was clearly linked to the elimination of access but also, and most especially, that the elimination of clinics disproportionately impacted Latinas," said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in New York.

The 2013 law also required that medication abortion be administered according to the FDA labeling protocol even though the protocol was outdated and off label use of drugs is common.  The FDA protocol requirement in conjunction with other Texas laws would have required women to make 4 trips to an abortion clinic to obtain a medication abortion. According to data released by the Department of Health, the year after the provision went into effect, 70% fewer women obtained medication abortions.

Although the Supreme Court did not address the FDA labelling requirement, the FDA recently updated its label guidelines.  The new protocol requires fewer visits to the woman's medical provider, lowers dosages and allows medication abortion up to 10 weeks rather than 7.  Since the new protocol has been in effect, Texas providers have reported an increase in women opting for medication abortion instead of surgical abortion.

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