Many states are enacting new legislation to shut down abortion clinics by adding draconian restrictions and requirements that are impossible for most clinics to meet. For example, Arizona and Texas passed bills outlawing FDA-approved abortion-inducing medication, forcing women seeking abortions to undergo more invasive and time-consuming surgical abortions instead. Arizona’s attempt at enforcing a ban on abortion after 20 weeks was shut down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas passed a similar law that will likely be challenged as well, which is the point: Texas hopes that the 5th Circuit will side with them, creating a “circuit split” (i.e. where federal circuit courts have made opposing decisions on the same topic) that can only be resolved by the Supreme Court. In fact, litigation on restrictive abortion laws has proliferated throughout the federal court system. These states’ ultimate goal is to get the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Texas has also enacted legislation requiring abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers and have admitting privileges at a local hospital no more than 30 miles away. Transforming the clinics into surgical centers costs millions of dollars because the clinics have to build new facilities or upgrade existing facilities, and purchase expensive equipment that they will never use. Obtaining hospital admitting privileges is impossible for many clinics, either because no hospitals exist within the 30-mile mark or because area hospitals, many of which are run by religious institutions, flat out refuse to grant those privileges. The clinics that cannot meet these requirements have been forced to close their doors.
According to Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights,
“if the law is allowed to remain in effect, fewer than 10 clinics will be able to stay open to serve Texas’ 13 million women. Some women in rural parts of the state would have to travel as many as 1,000 miles round trip to access abortion care.”
These restrictions, in addition to the 20-week ban, are incredibly detrimental to women living in poverty. These women do not have the resources to travel such long distances, which will ultimately lead to the type of unsafe abortions that the Roe decision was trying to prevent. Even those few who do have some small means to travel face the prospect of losing their jobs, taking unpaid time off, having to borrow money, or having to sell cherished possessions to pay for the trip. Wealthy women will always have access to abortions because they have the means to travel, not just to other states with more liberal abortion laws, but to other countries as well. Ultimately, this disparity will make poor women poorer, forcing them to rely on public benefits to feed the children that they knew they could not afford in the first place.
Clearly, these restrictions are an underhanded attempt to run abortion clinics out of the state, to circumvent Roe’s prohibition against total bans on abortions. Women need to speak up and speak out against these naked attempts to limit our freedom to choose what happens to our own bodies. We need to write to and call our state representatives and governors to let them know that we’re on to their game, that we will stand up for our rights, that we won’t let them relegate us to being mere incubators for the state.
Anti-choice legislators want to ignore women’s civil and human rights in favor of the state, but they forget the endgame: if the state is given the power to force a woman to have a child, the state will then also have the power to force a woman to abort a child. The political climate in the U.S. is variable, so it’s not a stretch to say that states may someday find that mandatory abortions are a viable (pun intended) solution to overpopulation and the resultant strain on resources. Both options treat women as chattel, so neither is acceptable. But it’s certainly food for thought.