AUSTIN (KXAN) - Ducking into a recovery room at Whole Woman's Health to make way for a doctor and nurse coming down the hall, Amy Hagstrom Miller took in her surroundings. The light violet walls were decked in colorful Georgia O'Keefe prints, the light was turned down to a comfortable glow and plush, black leather recliners lined the room.
"This is our after-care room, where patients come post-procedure to relax," Hagstrom Miller said.
Years ago, this was the vision she had for an abortion-care facility, where women could have a quick procedure and comfortable recovery. Now she fears the place she founded could soon drastically change.
"We're talking white walls, overhead lights and hospital stretchers, instead of these recliners," she said.
A measure before a Texas Senate panel would require abortion facilities to perform the procedures in ambulatory surgical centers. Hagstrom Miller said it would mean clinics like hers would take on an environment much like a hospital.
"In an ambulatory surgical setting, this room would need to be about four times this size," she said, walking into a 60-square-foot exam room. "There's a whole bunch of requirements that have to do with airflow, temperature, humidity, size of the room, that kind of thing for operations that may take three or four hours. But for an abortion that takes five or ten minutes, it's sort of mismatched."
Especially for something she says is usually very safe.
"There are complications from abortions that can be very serious, and we do need to have safety standards so that women are properly taken care of," said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, which supports pro-life legislation.
Pojman said the surgical center measure could mean a drop in the number of abortions in Texas, but it also makes healthy sense for women.
"This is a list of more than 400 licensed ambulatory surgical centers throughout the state of Texas," Pojman said, referring to a list from State Health Services. "If they can meet those safety standards, why can't the abortion providers?"
Texas has 47 abortion clinics, but only five have surgical centers. Only one of those is in Austin, and it is not Hagstrom Miller's.
If the bill passes, she says most clinics cannot afford the upgrades. Though her second Whole Woman's Health located in San Antonio is among the few with a surgical center, she is unsure the clinic is Austin will stay open.
"(The bill is) going to have a tremendous effect on Texas women," she said.
The surgical center requirement is part of a larger package lawmakers are considering during the special session. It also includes measures to:
- Ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Require doctors performing the procedure to also have privileges to work at nearby hospitals
- Require doctors to administer abortion drugs in person, according to FDA standards
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