Healthcare's Redlight District: 'It's Our Responsibility to Do Something'
A giant fight going on in Texas could have major implications on abortion clinic standards across the country. And it's not only the health and safety of women at stake in this battle.
Irma Gomez has been helping scared, pregnant women in McAllen, Texas, for decades. Gomez is a crisis pregnancy volunteer.
"It's our responsibility to help, encourage - to do something," she told CBN News.
That's why she's eagerly followed the debate over HB2, a far-reaching pro-life bill passed last year that hit the Texas abortion industry hard.
Under HB2, abortion is banned after 20 weeks and only doctors can prescribe abortion pills like RU486.
Also, doctors who perform surgical abortions are required to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and abortion clinics must meet the same safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.
Abortion supporters have fought those last two mandates the hardest.
"They keep claiming that this is somehow a targeting of them. But what we're saying is that if they can't meet minimum safety standards for women, then they shouldn't be in business," Charmaine Yost, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said.
Turning the Tide
On the national front, pro-life advocates believe this debate over safety could help turn the tide on abortion.
They point to abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. His conviction for illegally performing late-term abortions and killing babies after failed abortion attempts jump-started a new public conversation about the need for regulation.
"I think there's a greater awareness now that the legal abortion industry is the red light district of American healthcare," Yost said.
Which leads us back to McAllen. Following the ground breaking law, the city's only abortion clinic -- and a dozen more across the state -- shut down rather than follow the new safety requirements.
Melissa Conway, spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, said that under the new law "a hallway has to be large enough to have an ER gurney come down the hall if there's a complication -- that makes sense. That protects the health and safety of a woman."
Abortion supporters immediately responded that the closures would harm women's health.
For Gomez and others who help women in need, however, the clinic shutdowns came as a blessing.
"It was very exciting," Gomez told CBN News. "It was just very exciting because at least there will be less opportunity for these precious girls to go and look for help there, not knowing what they were getting into, really.
"There are many clinics across Texas -- we call them clean clinics because they do not do abortions and do not do referrals for abortion," she said.
"There are many healthcare providers that are more than willing to meet the needs of Texas women," Conway added.
Now this fight is in the hands of federal judges. Legal appeals maintain the law is less about safety and more about limiting access to abortion.
Still, pro-lifers believe they may have a winning case if the U.S. Supreme Court should decide to weigh in.
"The abortion industry would like us to believe that this is something we should put behind us and just move on, that it's a settled status quo in America -- but it's not," Yost said.
In the meantime, pregnancy centers in McAllen and elsewhere will continue to help women in crisis rethink attitudes about life and prepare for the birth of their babies.
"We need to help each other," Gomez said. "We need to encourage each other. Say, 'Well, mi hija (my child) -- there's another way besides doing that.'"