Public Input Sought for Rules on Texas Abortion Clinics' Upgrade
Now that House Bill 2 has passed and awaits Governor Rick Perry’s signature, a long process will begin to determine how the new, stricter standards for abortion clinics will be implemented.
The Texas Department of Health Services will be in charge of writing rules for how abortion clinics in Texas will need to upgrade.
"After a particular bill is signed, we will start working to implement it based on the time frame indicated in the legislation," said Carrie Williams, spokesperson for the department.
Gretchen Borchelt, director of state reproductive health policy with the National Women’s Law Center, said when a department is making decisions about regulations, it's 'important to note it’s not just a place where legal organization or provider affected would get involved but there’s also role for public to get involved.
Williams with the Texas Department of Health Services says that’s the one thing that remains consistent, regardless of the bill.
"We’re very interested in hearing from the public and getting comments on how our rules may affect them and their businesses," she said. "We’ll take all the comments we receive into consideration from any angle and any side."
During this drafting process, before it gets final approval from the Health and Human Services Commission, the public and stakeholders continue to provide feedback, and it doesn’t have to be through formalized meetings.
"What we’re going to be looking at now is how the new law will affect our rules," Williams said about the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, or ASCs, that abortion clinics will need to meet. "ASCs are equipped to do a variety of surgery types. They have to have the space for patients to stay. They’re required to have more equipment and food service arrangements. More complex sterilization of equipment. That will be reflected in our rules."
State Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene, owns an ASC and says the standards abortion clinics must adopt are tough to meet.
'If you put the regulations for an abortion facility juxtaposed to an ASC, as far as health and safety, they’re almost indistinguishable," Rep. King said. "They almost mirror each other in the words of the Department of State Health Services. The linchpin, the dividing factor is the construction and the pre-planning and architectural walk through. The fire safety and the width of the halls for the turning radius of the stretcher are very very exhaustive, very expensive."
Barring any court intervention, according to the bill’s language, facilities will have until September 2014 to upgrade.