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State Senate Bill Would Close Almost All Texas Abortion Clinics

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Only a handful of abortion clinics in Texas could continue to operate as they do now if Republican lawmakers push through a tough new bill aimed at raising the regulations that govern the clinics.

State Senator Bob Deuell (R) Greenville co-authored SB 537 with two other senate physicians. The bill would force abortion providers in Texas to abide by the same regulations as those governing ambulatory, or outpatient surgical centers—right down to the flooring, ventilation systems, and outfitting of janitors' closets.

"Make no mistake, SB 537 is a virtual ban on abortion in Texas," says Danielle Wells, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. "We're very concerned. SB 537 does absolutely nothing to protect women in Texas by subjecting clinics to onerous and medically unnecessary regulations"

According to Planned Parenthood, there are 42 abortion providers in the state—75% of those have no affiliation with Planned Parenthood—and only five right now are equipped to meet the standards that would be required under SB 537. All of those clinics are located in major metropolitan areas: Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. "Outside of those areas, women would face tremendous burdens to access safe, legal abortions," says Wells.

Texas' pro-life community, meanwhile, is applauding the lawmakers' efforts.

"Women deserve a certain standard of care in Texas," says Becky Visosky, spokesperson for Catholic Pro-Life Committee. "There's no reason why surgeries that are provided at abortion facilities should somehow be provided at a lower standard of care than any other surgical facility here in the state of Texas."

Many local physicians, however, told CBS 11 that the bill appears to be rooted in an ideological opposition to abortion. "Plastic surgeons routinely do much more invasive things in their private offices and are NOT subject to these regulations," says Ruth Wiley, M.D., a Fort Worth Ob/Gyn in private practice. "Why is this procedure singled out? Because it's about women".

The argument that the bill is intended to protect women's health is being met with wide-spread cynicism in the pro-choice community. The Republican led legislature last session cut state funding for family planning and preventative health services by two-thirds... eliminating some 73 million dollars from the program. "If these lawmakers are truly concerned about women's health, they should be fighting to restore a women's access to preventative health care, to life saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, well woman exams, HIV tests," says Wells, "that's care that saves lives."

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