Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a new law yesterday that bans abortion after 20 weeks, and increases the standards for clinics and doctors who provide abortions.
Clinics have a little more than a year to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, and critics say it will force as many as 37 of the state’s 42 clinics to close.
Women in rural and poor areas of Texas will be the most affected.
From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Joy Diaz of KUT in Austin, traveled to the border town of Laredo, Texas, where women haven’t had access to abortion clinics for years.
She found that right across the border in Mexico, those who supply abortion-inducing drugs are bracing for a business boom.
- Joy Diaz, reporter for KUT in Austin, Texas.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW. And it's now official. Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a new law yesterday that bans abortions after 20 weeks and increases requirements for clinics and doctors that provide abortions that could close most of the state's abortion clinics. Clinics have a little more than a year to complete an expensive upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, mini hospitals, or close. Supporters of the law say it will ensure high-quality care for women and fetuses.
Critics say it will force as many as 37 of the state's 42 clinics to shut down, robbing women in rural and poor areas of care. But that's already happening. Joy Diaz from the HERE AND NOW Contributing Network station KUT traveled to Laredo, Texas, a border town where women haven't had access to abortion clinics for years. She found right across the border those who supply abortion-inducing drugs are bracing for a business boom.
JOY DIAZ, BYLINE: Laredo is a mostly Hispanic, mostly Catholic city on the U.S. side with Mexico's border with Texas. Statues of saints dot the cityscape. There are no Planned Parenthood or women's clinics in Laredo, but there are plenty of obstetricians and gynecologists. I met a young woman in the waiting room of one doctor's office.
PRISCILLA GARISALES: (Foreign language spoken)
YOUNG: Priscilla Garisales(ph) is 26. She looks like a spruced-up college student: jean short shorts, long-sleeved shoulder-less shirt, designer purse and high-heeled shoes. She constantly bit her manicured nails. She told me she was stressed out.
GARISALES: (Through translator) Because I just found out that I'm pregnant, and it's just not the best thing for me.
DIAZ: Julio Garcia sits by Garisales' side. Garcia is a 37-year-old former Cuban soccer player turned businessman. He's also the baby's father. He loves the idea of having a child. He's never had children, not even with his partner. But Garisales is not his partner. That's why she wants to have an abortion. The couple begins to argue.
GARISALES: (Foreign language spoken)
DIAZ: Priscilla tells Julio she'll go across the border into Mexico to Nuevo Laredo and buy some pills to induce an abortion.
GARISALES: (Foreign language spoken)
DIAZ: It's not uncommon for women from Texas to cross the border into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to end their pregnancies. Businesses in Mexican border towns eagerly market abortion drugs.
Just past the first checkpoint into Mexico, pharmacies and doctors' offices line both sides of an entire street. Huge speakers blast pre-recorded messages advertising doctors' visits for under $3. Salespeople dressed like nurses walk the streets ushering tourists into the pharmacies.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)
DIAZ: I am looking for the drug Cytotec, used to induce labor in the U.S. It's sold as an abortion pill here. Come on in, says one attendant. Yes, we do carry Cytotec. Each pill is $10. An entire bottle, $280, a much cheaper option than trying to obtain an abortion in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)
DIAZ: At another pharmacy, the attendant tells me I can find the pills at a flee market back in Laredo. They purchase large quantities from Mexico, she says. Along the same street is Dr. Sadia Gomez's office. She tells me American girls as young as 14 regularly stop by her clinic seeking an abortion.
DR. SADIA GOMEZ: (Through translator) You can easily tell. They struggle to explain what they want. They go round and round talking until they finally tell you they need help.
DIAZ: Gomez is a Christian who doesn't perform abortions. And she sends the girls away.
GOMEZ: (Through translator) The saddest thing is that as soon as they leave my office, they will keep looking for some other doctor. And some are unscrupulous.
DIAZ: Dr. Gomez says some doctors here will do the procedure in small clinics using the bare minimum equipment. She's expecting the traffic will increase for two reasons: With the decrease of drug-related violence in Mexico, Americans feel safer coming into the country; and two, the new Texas abortion restrictions go into effect in 90 days. That's why Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini opposed Texas's new abortion law.
Zaffirini is a Catholic and has never supported abortion. But she says the new Texas law that mandates that clinics do more than just perform abortions, that they must upgrade to ambulatory medical centers or mini hospitals, will force 37 of the state's existing 42 clinics to shut down.
SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI: The ambulatory surgical centers require wider halls. What does that have to do with performing an abortion or providing mammographies or Pap smears?
DIAZ: Because Texas has the highest percentage of people without health insurance in the U.S., Texas officials fear the state doesn't have the resources to absorb all the patients who could end up without abortion services when the clinics shut down. Dr. Hector Gonzalez heads the Laredo Health Department.
DR. HECTOR GONZALEZ: In Laredo, we're the only the Title 10 public health provider. We traditionally saw about 400 women for family planning and women's health. Last year, we saw 1,500 patients.
DIAZ: Dr. Gonzales says some of the women sought treatment for complications from obtaining black market abortions. Most he, says, cannot afford the expense of traveling to other parts of Texas for legitimate care. Opponents of the new Texas abortion legislation are promising to continue their fight in court, where similar laws in other states have been declared in violation of the U.S. Constitution. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Joy Diaz in Laredo, Texas.
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YOUNG: So what do you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts at facebook.com/hereandnowradio, where there is already a lot of reaction to the lead story of the hour, those controversial photos of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
The official Massachusetts State trooper photographer released graphic pictures he took at the capture because he says he was upset that Rolling Stone put Tsarnaev on its cover in what he called a buffed shot.
YOUNG: So here our some of your thoughts. Kenny Tevares(ph) writes that what the trooper did is much worse than the Rolling Stone picture. Not only could it prejudice a jury, but one of the photos makes him look like a martyr.
HOBSON: Jan Marshal McVeigh disagrees. She writes: As a Massachusetts resident, I do support the release of these photos because Tsarnaev's actions and the consequences of them are a public matter. These images, she says, belong to all of us.
YOUNG: And Scott McHardy(ph) wrote simply: The trooper did the right thing.
So you could add your comments at facebook.com/hereandnowradio and always at hereandnow.org. You can leave a comment with a story there or in the upper right-hand corner. You'll see a way to send an email.
HOBSON: And in other story, we're following today President Obama is speaking today about Trayvon Martin. He says Trayvon could've been me 35 years ago. He says protests against the verdict are understandable. But if they turn violent, he says, it dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.
When we come back, that heat wave across the country. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.