On Wednesday night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow featured an exclusive segment about the current state of pro-life laws in Texas, following the implementation of HB2, the Texas abortion safety law that added additional safety measures for women visiting clinics. The piece concluded with the announcement that Whole Women’s Health, which owns and operates abortion clinics across the state, was closing two of its five centers, in McAllen and Beaumont, respectively.
Maddow’s 20-minute feature focused primarily on the Texas legislation that led to the clinic closures – namely HB2, Texas’ omnibus pro-life bill of the 2013 Legislative Session. Unsurprisingly, some facts were botched or simply omitted in Maddow’s report. She said (emphasis added):
The Texas legislature meets every two years, and basically every two years since Republicans have taken over they have done what they could to pass new limits on abortion laws in that state; in 2003 as soon as they got there, then again in 2005, then 2007, then 2009, then 2011. And then 2013: the most sweeping omnibus anti-abortion bill [HB2] in that state yet.
Maddow’s take on pro-life politics in the state was misinformed at best. First, she laid out a background of pro-life legislation in Texas that is false. In her estimation, one minute after the Republican Party took control of the state’s legislature in late 2002, all Republican politicians set their sights firmly on pro-life legislation–or as Maddow would phrase the issue: “attacking women’s right to abortion.” Republicans simply stood and worked for policies that reflect the values of their voters.
The voters of Texas are the rallying force behind pro-life legislation, not Texas politicians, some of whom are regarded as left-leaning Republicans. For example, voters in the Texas Democratic primary who live in border counties refused to accept their rabidly pro-abortion gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, instead voting for her pro-life Democrat opposition who spent no money in his campaign against her. Across party lines, Texas residents are pro-life, and this is how Texas has always been. Texas Right to Life (TRL) must fight tooth and nail to ensure that the pro-life convictions of Texas at-large are represented by the legislation that their elected officials seek to pass. Without these stalwart Texans, and a handful of truly dedicated politicians who represent them, Texas would not be the envy of pro-lifers nationwide.
Additionally, no free-standing pro-life laws passed in 2005, 2007, or 2009, but Maddow did not let the facts impede her sensationalism.
Maddow’s report failed to relay accurate numbers of clinic closures in the state of Texas since the passage of HB2. Currently, 27 abortion clinics remain operational in the state, according to TRL research. Maddow’s report cites 19. Her discrepancy may have involved overlooking the eight abortion clinics that quickly attained admitting privileges following the preliminary court ruling on HB2.
Maddow chronicled the gruesome professions of two abortionists in the Rio Grande Valley as if they were heroes. One of these is abortionists Lester Minto, whose clinic in Harlingen was forced to close last Friday after Minto could not meet the requirements of HB2 to operate within the new law. Among other stipulations, HB2 requires that abortionists secure admitting privileges at hospitals near their clinics. According to Minto’s interview with Slate, he brazenly sent women south of the border after the passage of HB2 so that they could obtain the drug misoprostol for self-induced abortions (an off-label use of the drug, which can lead to maternal death). Minto, perhaps unsurprisingly, was not able to achieve privileges at any of the hospitals near his clinic despite multiple requests.
Generally, a physician in good medical standing faces few obstacles when obtaining admitting privileges, although the hospital’s credentialing board can take a few weeks or months to approve or reject the request. As of HB2’s implementation, some abortionists already had admitting privileges. Many others were able to swiftly obtain them. Abortionists like Lester Minto may prove that they do not value women’s health and safety; therefore, they are a liability to a hospital that would cooperate with their substandard abortion practice. Substandard abortion clinics that cannot or will not comply with Texas law are dangerous for women and will not be tolerated by the pro-life majority of Texas. If Maddow truly cared about women and their “safe, legal, and rare” choice of abortion, she, too, would want the practitioners out of the abortion business.