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Texas bill could effectively close most abortion clinics

Texas is next in a line of states trying to diminish the access women have to abortions.

Texas is next in a line of states trying to diminish the access women have to abortions. In addition to other restrictions in North Dakota, Arkansas, and Kansas, a committee in the Texas Senate advanced a bill Tuesday that would effectively shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state by setting minimum facility standards.

The bill is now headed for the full state Senate. In December, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he wanted abortion, at any stage, to be a thing of the past.

S.B. 537 would require clinics to either close or undergo expensive and extensive facility upgrades to meet the same standards as an ambulatory surgical center. Centers would need to comply with new mandatory regulations about things like the size of operating rooms, the ventilation systems, and janitors’ closets.

Proponents of the measure say abortion clinics should meet the same standards as other surgery centers. State Senator Robert Deuell sponsored the legislation.

SB 537 will force abortion clinics in Texas to put women's health first.My bill requires same standards as other surgery centers. #txlege— Bob Deuell (@bobdeuell) February 13, 2013

Great testimony today in favor of my bill SB537 to protect women seeking an abortion.Who is really behind the so-called "war on women?"— Bob Deuell (@bobdeuell) March 19, 2013

The Associated Press reported:

Deuell adamantly denied that his bill would deny women access to an abortion, though he acknowledged that out of 38 abortion clinics in Texas, only five would meet the new requirement. The proposed law would only apply to facilities that provide more than 40 abortions a year.

The Texas bill’s requirements include clinics that only dispense abortion pills and don’t perform any actual surgical procedures. If those facilities could not meet these new rules, they would be forced to close, and women would also lose access to other health care services they provided.

"Shutting down the clinics in Texas, this is not chipping away, this is taking a sledgehammer at the right [to choose]," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, on Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday.

"I love my state, but when it comes to reproductive rights, I am ashamed of my state," said NBC Latino contributor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow and adjunct professor at the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas. "The state of Texas said, 'we are going to take away money from any clinic that is related to abortion provisions.' So, Planned Parenthood. Which means women of lower socioeconomic status who need medicaid dollars aren’t just being banned from their rights to an abortion if they so choose, but also all of the other health care that comes with reproductive rights."

Former Bush-Cheney adviser Robert Traynham noted that although a pro-choice president may have won on the national level, states still have to have the ability to legislate on the local level.

"At the end of the day, that’s how our constitutional system is set up, that states are empowered and should be empowered to make these decisions," he said.

You can watch the second half of the discussion from Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry below: