Abortion Rights Supporters Demonstrated outside the Capitol auditorium in Austin

AUSTIN — Abortion-rights groups, just handed a defeat by a federal appeals court, are considering a new legal challenge to another facet of Texas’ law restricting abortions.
The second phase of the restrictions, due to take effect in September, would require that women using pills to induce an abortion must go to an outpatient surgical center to swallow the medication in front of a doctor.
Previously, such a dose, designed to induce cramping and bleeding to complete the abortion, would be taken at home. But regulations written by state health officials to implement the law will no longer allow that.
Six of the 24 abortion clinics operating in the state currently meet the required standards of ambulatory surgical centers — such as specific room and doorway sizes, air sterilization systems, back-up generators, blood supplies, and male and female locker rooms on site. As a result, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Sarah Wheat said, more clinics will close, and abortion medication will be “out of reach for thousands of Texas women.”
Abortion-rights advocates are expected to announce this week whether they’ll seek an injunction to stop the requirements. State officials have vowed to vigorously defend the law, and the battle is closely watched as a key fight in how much states can restrict access to abortion by targeting clinics and doctors with regulations.
Before the law was passed last year, many women in the early stages of pregnancy preferred the less invasive abortion-inducing medication to surgical abortions, said Lindsay Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, a group that provides financial assistance and information for women seeking abortions.
Now, she said, more women are turning to the surgical procedure. Women who take the medication experience cramping similar to a miscarriage. Patients and doctors are concerned about taking the second pill away from home. The symptoms can start any time within 24 hours of taking the medication.
Many doctors won’t administer the pills if “the patient doesn’t live, or isn’t [staying], very close to the clinic because the patient might start having their abortion on the way home,” Rodriguez said.
Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, an anti-abortion group, said requiring pill-induced abortions to take place at a surgical center is necessary in case surgical complications arise.
Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld two other provisions of the law, ruling that the state could require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and could enforce federal protocols for use of abortion drugs considered outdated by medical professionals.
“Medical research has shown that drug-induced abortions present more medical complications and adverse events than surgical abortions, with 6 percent of medication abortions eventually requiring surgery to complete the abortion often on an emergency basis,” a three-judge panel wrote. Abortion advocates are considering options to appeal the ruling.
Coupled with a 2012 law requiring women seeking abortions to view a sonogram 24 hours before the procedure, women will soon have to make four visits to the same doctor to get a pill-induced abortion.