Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and his Republican allies in the state legislature launched an aggressive legislative campaign against reproductive rights over the summer, including measures intended to close the vast majority of clinics where reproductive services are provided.
Proponents of the policies said the measures were necessary in order to protect public safety. Becca Aaronson reports in the Texas Tribune this week that the arguments are plainly contradicted by the facts.
[A] Texas Tribune review of state inspection records for 36 abortion clinics from the year preceding the lawmakers' vote turned up little evidence to suggest the facilities were putting patients in imminent danger. State auditors identified 19 regulatory violations that they said presented a risk to patient safety at six abortion clinics that are not ambulatory surgical centers in Texas. None was severe enough to warrant financial penalties, according to the Department of State Health Services, which deemed the facilities' corrective action plans sufficient to protect patients.And between 2008 and 2013, the Texas Medical Board, which regulates the state's physicians, took action against just three doctors who performed abortions -- all of them for administrative infractions that did not involve criminal practices or late-term abortions.
Republican officials swore up and down this was about "safety" concerns at health clinics. The evidence clearly suggests otherwise.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive officer of Whole Woman's Health, which operates five abortion facilities in Texas, told Aaronson, "The point of this legislation was to make abortion inaccessible. It wasn't about safety, because there is no safety problem around abortion in Texas."
In theory, revelations like these might have some effect on public policy, except it seems rather obvious that the "safety" argument was a pretense for opponents of reproductive rights to do what they wanted to do anyway -- close clinics in order to restrict women's reproductive choices.
The fact that the right's argument has been discredited, alas, will have little practical effect on a debate that was never about facts or evidence in the first place.