Research by UT professor to counter new abortion bill

Christina Breitbeil

Planned Parenthood will use research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, headed by UT professor Joseph Potter, to justify a request for a preliminary injunction against a set of new abortion restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature in July.

Renee Paradis, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, said her client is challenging two provisions of the bill: strengthened restrictions on medication-induced abortions and new requirements for doctors who perform abortions to acquire admitting privileges from hospitals.

Potter’s research — which used information provided by the plaintiff — culminated in an expert report showing how the bill would affect Texas women. 

“Dr. Potter’s research has been extremely helpful,” Paradis said. “It has allowed [the plaintiff] to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the bill in its infringement upon the rights of women in Texas.”

Planned Parenthood’s official request for a preliminary injunction against the new bill included several citations of Potter’s research with the project. Referencing the “Potter Declaration” — a term the plaintiff uses to cite Potter’s research — the injunction states, “Out of the approximately 68,900 women who are expected to seek an abortion annually in Texas, a full 22,286 will not be able to do so because of the privileges law.” 

Danielle Wells, representative of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said the state of care for Texas women is already in jeopardy because the legislature cut funding for family planning programs by two-thirds in 2011. 

Wells said the decrease caused more than 70 female care centers to close and more than 130,000 women to lose access to basic preventative care such as cervical cancer screenings and birth control in addition to abortion services.

“I think it’s important to recognize that if this bill goes into effect, it will harm the women who are already suffering the most,” Wells said. 

Rachel Renier, Plan II Honors freshman, said she thinks there will always be a demand for abortions and closing clinics would lead to women turning to the “black market.” 

“At a certain socioeconomic level, I think abortions should be available and adding regulations isn’t the best way to prevent women from having abortions if they are really desperate,” Renier said. “I’m glad to see the research from UT contribute to the effort to fix the issues caused by these regulations.”

The project used a team of researchers from UT’s Population Research Center, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Ibis Reproductive Health, an international women’s health organization.