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Bill would require hospital privileges for doctors who perform abortions

By Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press
April 16, 2013 at 11 p.m.


AUSTIN - Doctors who perform abortions would be required to have privileges at a nearby hospital under a proposal approved Tuesday by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The measure is one of many efforts by conservative lawmakers to reduce the number of abortions performed in Texas. A similar plan was part of an array of laws that ultimately led the last abortion clinic in Mississippi to shut down.

Gov. Rick Perry has pledged to support any legislation that would end abortions in Texas, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst promised Thursday to pass major anti-abortion legislation this year.

Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Galveston, said his bill was intended to increase the safety of women undergoing abortions by requiring any doctor who performs surgical abortions, or induces abortions with medications, to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

Merrylynn Gerstenschlager, vice president of the Texas Eagle Forum was among several abortion opponents to support the measure.

"It will prevent hit-and-run abortions in Texas," she said. "If the doctor is not competent to obtain hospital privileges, then he is not competent to perform abortions."

But Stacy Wilson, representing the Texas Hospital Association, said that thousands of good doctors do not need hospital privileges to provide out-patient care and said the requirement "is not, in our opinion, an appropriate way to achieve these goals."

"Requiring hospitals to credential and grant privileges to doctors who provide outpatient services is time consuming and expensive for the hospital," she said. She said hospitals are ready to accept patients, regardless of whether their doctor has privileges.

Blake Rocap, representing abortion rights group NARAL-Texas, said the law would set an arbitrary bar to a woman's access to health care.

Many hospitals affiliated with religious organizations are the only facilities available in parts of the state, and they do not grant privileges to doctors who perform abortions. Five Republicans voted to refer the bill to the full Senate, while the three Democratic members were not present.

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