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Our history of abortion care in South Texas

Ensuring that patients have access to safe, legal abortion care has long been a priority for Planned Parenthood South Texas — even before we began providing this care at our health centers in 1997.

No distance too great

In the early 1970s, we partnered with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles to help San Antonio patients obtain abortion care in California. We provided financial and logistical assistance for patients to fly to Los Angeles for abortion care at a hospital there.

In a profound victory for reproductive rights, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion in 1973. San Antonio philanthropist and activist Ruth McLean Bowers underwrote the expenses for Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court. Bowers, a tireless pro-choice advocate, served on the Planned Parenthood South Texas board and remained a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood until her death in 2013.

Abortion care is health care

Abortion care is an integral part of the spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care. We’ve seen what happens when women do not have access to safe and legal abortion, and it’s crucial that we protect that access. While Planned Parenthood does more than anyone else to prevent abortions by preventing unplanned pregnancies, we trust women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and their bodies. If a patient chooses to terminate a pregnancy, we provide her with the best possible care in a compassionate, respectful, non-judgmental environment.

Challenges created by the state

This has in no way been easy over the last 22 years. The state of Texas has steadily chipped away at abortion rights by passing dozens of laws that unnecessarily regulate the procedure—with the political intent of making abortion less accessible to Texans.

Among them:

  • Patients must receive state-directed counseling that includes incorrect medical information (such as linking abortion to increased risk of breast cancer and infertility) designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.
  • Patients must undergo a vaginal probe ultrasound at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion, and the provider must show and describe the image to patients.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.

When the state began outrageously over-regulating abortion, we decreased the number of health centers at which we provided this care. In 2013, the Texas legislature passed HB2, which contained several provisions related to abortions, including one that required all abortion clinics comply with standards for ambulatory surgical centers. More than half the abortion-providing clinics in the state closed.

We couldn’t let the state’s extreme attack on reproductive rights prevent our patients from getting the care they need and deserve. Heroic philanthropy from our dedicated supporters allowed us to buy and remodel a building in the South Texas Medical Center in 2014 to serve as a state-of-the-art ambulatory surgical center. The new health center opened in 2015 to provide abortion care as well as birth control, STD testing and treatment, cervical cancer screenings and prevention, clinical breast exams, and much more.

The Supreme Court struck down several of HB2’s provisions in 2016 — a resounding win for reproductive rights — but abortion in Texas continues to be over-regulated, and most of the shuttered clinics remain closed.

We are determined to be what South Texas women need us to be

We feel a moral imperative to expand abortion access and help rebuild a network of clinics that will be sufficient to meet the needs of Texas women. In February 2019, we began providing abortion care at a second location, at a health center on San Pedro Avenue that adjoins our family planning clinic.

Attitudes toward abortion have changed and evolved in the 80 years since our founding and the 46 years since Roe v. Wade. Three-quarters of Americans want to preserve the landmark decision, according to a recent poll. There is a burgeoning awareness among men of their need to speak up and support abortion. And states including Illinois, Vermont, Colorado, and Massachusetts are passing bills to protect abortion access should Roe be undermined or overturned.

But the Trump-Pence administration and anti-choice Texas lawmakers continue to attack reproductive health care and rights. With Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court late last year, abortion rights are under unprecedented threat. This spring and summer have seen a wave of anti-abortion bills in Georgia, Alabama and other states.

We are determined to be what South Texas women need us to be, and our job includes making abortion care accessible to women who live in South Texas — no matter what. We will become ready to connect patients with abortion care in ways that legally overcome whatever hurdles might be created. We have you — our passionate and compassionate supporters — to thank for helping us to thrive for 80 years. When you stand with us, you stand with the women of South Texas and the right to safe, legal abortion.