Issue #359

Fractions of women in Texas

People gather for a vigil at Whole Women’s Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas, on March 6, 2014.

People gather for a vigil at Whole Women’s Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas, on March 6, 2014.

How do you count women in Texas, and when do the numbers get big? There is a good deal of bad math in a decision made last week, by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, that had the effect of closing all but eight abortion clinics in the state; until recently, there were about forty. Five million four hundred thousand Texans are women of childbearing age. Almost one and a half million of them will live more than a hundred miles from any clinic; nine hundred thousand will live more than a hundred and fifty miles away, seven hundred and fifty thousand more than two hundred and fifty miles. For a good many, there will be more than five hundred miles to go, unless they want to cross the border and take their chances in Mexico. For a two-to-one majority on the Fifth Circuit panel, that just wasn’t enough women for them to worry about. The Texas clinics will close because of a law, passed by the state legislature last year, that placed new regulations on clinics that provide abortions. The Supreme Court has found that women cannot be cheated of their right to end a pregnancy before viability by way of laws that place an “undue burden” on them, as standard laid out in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992. But, as Jeffrey Toobin recently wrote, courts in recent years have become increasingly merciless in what they consider undue for a woman at what is often a moment of profound crisis, to the point where almost no burden seems too heavy. Amy Davidson, New Yorker, 10-5-14.