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The Brief: Oct. 7, 2014

New abortion restrictions passed by the Legislature could lead to one unexpected result: more abortions performed in doctors' offices as the number of abortion clinics in the state drops to single digits.

A day after a federal appeals court allowed Texas to begin enforcing new abortion restrictions, a group protested the ruling on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol building.

The Big Conversation

New abortion restrictions passed by the Legislature could lead to one unexpected result: more abortions performed in doctors' offices as the number of abortion clinics in the state drops to single digits.

The Tribune's Alexa Ura writes, "State statute does not require physicians’ offices, such as gynecology and obstetrics practices, to obtain abortion licenses if they perform fewer than 50 such procedures a year. That exempts them from the most restrictive provisions of House Bill 2, the contentious 2013 measure that has now shuttered almost all of the state's remaining abortion clinics."

She reports as well an odd historical occurrence. The number of abortions reported in doctors' office practically vanished between 2002 and 2012, dropping from 10,985 to 43. Several rationales were offered to Ura for this precipitous drop, including doctors choosing to avoid using the word "abortion" in describing what they do.

"Some say doctors are performing the procedure — just not reporting them as abortions," Ura wrote. “'I’m sure there will be physicians that will do things and call them miscarriages so they don't look like they're doing abortions,' said Dr. Raymond Moss Hampton, an OBGYN in Odessa who chairs the Texas arm of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."

For now, it seems that folks on both sides of the abortion issue are waiting to see what impact this exemption for doctors' offices will have on the number of abortions performed in the state before advocating further action by the Legislature.

The Day Ahead

•    The House Appropriations subcommittee on education meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to take testimony on the Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Education Agency and the Available University Fund. (agenda)

•    The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension on interim charges addressing the effectiveness of deferred adjudication, the sale of criminal histories and how better to address graffiti, among others. (agenda)

•    The House Insurance Committee meets at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to examine the status of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. (agenda)

•    The House Agriculture & Livestock Committee meets at noon in McAllen to address agricultural commodity import traffic delays. (agenda)

•    The House Homeland Security & Public Safety meets at 2 p.m. in the Capitol Extension to receive an update on border security operations and to revisit draft legislation on storage of ammonium nitrate, among other issues. (agenda)

•    The Senate Health & Human Services Committee meets at 2 p.m. in the Capitol Extension to discuss the state's readiness to respond to outbreaks of infectious disease. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

Lawmakers to Examine Texas' Public Health Readiness, by Neena Satija and Alexa Ura

Feds Withholding $75M Over Hospital Funding Question, by Edgar Walters

Abortion Providers Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Review Decision, by Alexa Ura

Cruz: Amend U.S. Constitution to Preserve Marriage Bans, by Aman Batheja

Perry Says Feds Should Screen for Ebola, by Jay Root


Abbott maintains massive cash advantage over Davis, San Antonio Express-News

Lagging in cash and polls, Wendy Davis looks to rouse ‘unlikely’ voters, Austin American-Statesman

Abbott's office defends transparency record on Enterprise Fund, Houston Chronicle

Davis: Price tag on ed plan depends on state revenues, Houston Chronicle

Dallas’ Vickery Meadow residents enduring backlash over Ebola, The Dallas Morning News

Michael McCaul pitches $1 billion border security plan, Austin American-Statesman

Gay marriage decision not a rallying cry for Republicans, The Hill

Are slot-like machines soon heading to Texas racetracks?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Plot Against Public Education, Politico

Quote to Note

“Nobody gives that kind of money unless there's something in it for them in a political campaign. ... It really is sort of unbelievable to think there isn't an issue associated with this.”

— San Antonio-area campaign consultant Trish DeBerry on the decision of a Corpus Christi lawyer to spend nearly $700,000 in the race for Bexar County district attorney

Today in TribTalk

The true test for Texas is what comes after Ebola, by Brett P. Giroir

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Sam Houston, 2014 Democratic Nominee for Attorney General, on Oct. 16 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, on Oct. 22 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commission Candidates Steve Brown and Ryan Sitton, on Oct. 30 at The Austin Club in Austin

•    A One-Day Symposium on the Impact of the Shale Boom on Oct. 31 at the University of Texas San Antonio

•    A Live Post-Election TribCast, featuring Tribune editors and reporters on the election results, on Nov. 5 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick on Nov. 6 at The Austin Club

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Health care Higher education Politics Greg Abbott Michael McCaul Rick Perry Ted Cruz Wendy Davis