LUBBOCK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Planned Parenthood recently opened a health center in Lubbock, ending the six-year drought that a huge swath of West Texas and the Panhandle had been without an abortion clinic.
The moves happening in Texas and across the country are examples of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.READ MORE: 1-Year-Old Dallas Boy At Center Of Amber Alert Found Safe
Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed.
“Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”
The clinic opened on October 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.
Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Between 2011 and 2013, the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and passed a law that imposed hospital-like operating standards on abortion clinics and required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013.
That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland.
Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth.
Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic’s opening.
“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life.
Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.READ MORE: State Fair Of Texas Welcomed 2.2M Visitors During 24-Day Run
Thus far, the City Council has declined to adopt the ordinance, but activists say they have enough signatures to place it on the ballot in a local referendum.
Texas is one of several red states where Planned Parenthood has sought to expand abortion access. Earlier this year, its health center in Louisville, Kentucky, began providing abortions after obtaining a license from the newly installed administration of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
For the previous four years, anti-abortion Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration refused to issue a license. The change doubled the number of abortion providers in Kentucky from one to two.
Dr. Kara Cadwallader, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer for Kentucky and Indiana, said the resumption of abortion services in Louisville had gone smoothly. Anti-abortion protesters routinely appear outside the building, she said, but they were a steady presence even when the center did not provide abortions.
She and her colleagues are bracing for a new wave of anti-abortion legislation from Kentucky’s Legislature, where the GOP holds enough seats to override possible vetoes from Beshear.
“We’ll once again be under siege,” Cadwallader said.
In October 2019, Planned Parenthood’s affiliate in St. Louis opened a large new health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois — about 17 miles from its St. Louis clinic. Illinois, where Democrats hold power, has not sought to curtail abortion, and the clinic was intended to provide an extra option for women from Missouri and other nearby Republican-governed states with multiple restrictions.
Missouri, for example, bars the use of telemedicine for abortion services, a policy that has sharply limited the number of medication abortions. Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer for reproductive health services in the St. Louis region, has made clear that medication abortion by telemedicine is available in Illinois.
The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, who represents many independent abortion providers as president of the National Abortion Federation, said one priority for her members is to make medication abortion more widely available. She also anticipates that it will become more difficult for women to obtain abortions later in pregnancy, increasing the need for funding programs that can help pay for travel to clinics that offer those procedures.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)MORE NEWS: Tarrant County Wants Voters' Approval To Spend $400M For Roads
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