Today at The Houston Chronicle, David Saleh Rauf has published a piece about the #HB2 rules that Department of State Health Services (a part of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) will be publishing soon. [For those who need a refresher as to what those rules are or who DSHS and/or HHSC is, please see my post from earlier this year.]
The piece is behind a paywall but I’m still gonna share with you the most exciting part:
State health officials are expected this week to finalize rules that outline a component of the state’s new abortion law that opponents say would be responsible for eliminating most abortion clinics throughout Texas.
The component requires clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Opponents have petitioned regulators to exempt existing clinics from making costly upgrades.
A record number of public comments – roughly 19,365 – flooded the inbox of a state health agency helping craft regulations that will lay out exactly how to implement the portion of the law. Rules are expected to be finalized this week so that the Health and Human Services Commission can meet a legislatively imposed deadline to have them in place by the start of next year.
The pending regulation is the last piece of a four-pronged abortion package that lawmakers approved over the summer – and it’s the one element of the law opponents say will be responsible for wiping out all but six abortion clinics throughout the state.
Data show roughly 19,100 individual commenters urged regulators to tweak final rules to include a grandfather clause for current facilities, an effort to prevent widespread clinic closures. On the flipside, about 265 people wrote to regulators saying they need to follow the Legislature’s intent and implement rules.
Once more because OH MY GOD: 19,100 Texans wrote to DSHS to ask that they grandfather in existing abortion clinics. NINETEEN THOUSAND.
The rules part of this long legislative process is not sexy, it is hard to explain, and it rarely draws people’s attention. Without much organized effort (trust me on this part), nineteen thousand Texans showed DSHS that they are still watching, still angry, and still ready and willing to let everyone know.
(of course, DSHS spokesperson told Saleh Rauf that they didn’t actually LISTEN to those nineteen thousand people: “the requested grandfather clause will not be included because the Legislature did not grant regulators the leeway to carve an the exemption.”)
Thank you to Saleh Rauf for reporting on this.
My friend, Lize Burr, has said this best so I’m giving the last word to her:
The historic public participation in the usually obscure rule-making process shows the continued passion, commitment and power of this movement. Anyone who wants to say that enthusiasm has dimmed since last summer needs to explain why 19,000 Texans told the DSHS to grandfather these clinics. This is about women’s lives, their rights and the future of our state. What we see in these numbers is the beginning of a new populism in Texas–one that reflects the changing demographics and growing openness of our state.