Abortion Facilities Bill debate heats up

In the April 4 issue of the Houston Chronicle, Houston writer Beverly McPhail argues that the Senate Bill 537, also known as the Abortion Facilities Bill, places “onerous and unnecessary restrictions” on abortion clinics by requiring them to meet the same minimum health and safety requirements as ambulatory surgical centers in Texas.

She basically makes four points in her op-ed:

  • She believes the bill is intended to shut down abortion clinics.
  • Because the risk of complications related to abortion procedures is “minimal,” these health and safety requirements are not necessary.
  • McPhail thinks that efforts to ensure the health and safety of Texas women “reeks of paternalism” and these women need no special protections in regard to their health.
  • Opportunities for women are limited when men take steps to protect them.

McPhail concludes by insisting that legislators should help increase access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV tests and birth control, in addition to reinstating funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood.

McPhail uses familiar pro-choice arguments usually made when an effort is made to ensure patient safety or guarantee a woman is fully informed about her body during pregnancy – and the pre-born baby – before making the decision to abort. Her arguments centers around the right to an abortion, which no one is calling into question with SB 537.

Instead, the bill aims to ensure that, should something go wrong during an abortion procedure, the physician and nurses are in a facility likely equipped to handle an emergency. In February of this year, a 29-year-old Maryland woman died of fatal complications after her 33-week abortion at a licensed facility that hadn’t ever been inspected. Horrifying article after article illustrate deplorable conditions at the abortion facility run by Dr. Kermit Gossnel. And yet McPhail argues against minimum health and safety requirements for Texas women.

How, exactly, is hers an argument in favor of women?

Sen. Donna Campbell offers a well-reasoned rebuttal to McPhail, speaking as a legislator, emergency room physician and co-author of SB 537. Abortion facilities should be state-regulated, according to Sen. Campbell, because women may elect to have an abortion, but they do not choose to receive “substandard surgical care.” The bill ensures women won’t be victims of discrimination when seeking an abortion, and Sen. Campbell correctly points out the oddity of abortion facilities “intentionally providing a lower level of care to women for years.”

Requiring abortion facilities to adhere to ambulatory surgical center standards isn’t a barbaric idea that will force women to seek out back alley abortions. Instead, these guidelines will ensure that, no matter what a woman chooses to do with her body, she is entitled to a high level of care.

What’s your take on this issue? Should abortion clinics adhere to a higher standard of care, or do you believe the current guidelines are sufficient?

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