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July 15, 2013

Texas abortion clinics need million-dollar fixes to remain open

AUSTIN, Texas —

Requirements for wider hallways, janitor closets and back-up generators will likely be the downfall of Amy Hagstrom Miller's abortion business in Texas.
               

Texas lawmakers last week approved a law requiring that abortion clinics become hospital-like outpatient surgical centers, with detailed rules for how the buildings are designed. Owners of the state's 36 clinics, including five run by Miller, would need to spend millions of dollars to comply - adding features such as showers, single-sex locker rooms and special airflow systems - or either relocate or shut down.
               

"Comments about how abortion providers have enough money to just build these facilities are bogus," Miller, 46, said via email. "Over the past 10 years all we've done is grow, and I'm proud of what we have built. We did our first layoff yesterday and it was heartbreaking."
               

Clinic operators around the state are now forced to consider whether they can pay the bill. Even if they succeed, providers face another hurdle under the new law: Their doctors are required to gain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Clinics' ability to comply will determine whether women can obtain legal abortions in the state.
               

Texas would become the largest and most-populous state to approve comprehensive clinic regulations once the measure is signed by Gov. Rick Perry, R, a supporter. It's part of a widening thrust by abortion foes in Republican-led states to make it harder for women to obtain abortions by cracking down on providers. Texas already had abortion laws aimed at patients, such as a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between consulting with a doctor and undergoing the procedure.
               

In the past few years, similar structural requirements for clinics have been blamed for closings in Virginia and Pennsylvania. North Carolina lawmakers are considering giving state health officials the power to impose similar rules.

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