Let me start by getting this off my chest: even if you believe that abortions done for reasons of “unplanned pregnancy” should only be done in the first trimester, you can’t flat-out ban abortions in later pregnancy, because those are usually done for very important medical reasons, like saving the life of the mother or not birthing a baby who wouldn’t survive outside the womb. This happened to a close friend of mine at almost 24 weeks of pregnancy, in Quebec, and despite the tragic outcome, I’m very happy that she had access to medical care that had her best interests (both physical and psychological) in mind. Plus, of course, to get back to unplanned pregnancies, you have to take into consideration the fact that when women have adequate access to health care, including contraception and prenatal care, the number of abortions drops anyway.
Now, if you have a moment, I highly recommend you watch John Oliver’s piece on abortion, because he always manages to be both funny and very informative. The piece summarizes the current controversies very well. You can also read an article on The Daily Beast published a little over a year ago, about the “craziest” (most restrictive) abortions bills passed since 2010.
Last year, a federal appellate court upheld House Bill 2, which states that Texas can require abortion clinics to meet the same building, equipment, and staff standards as hospitals. This sounds good in theory, until you realize that the law is actually unnecessary (the procedures done in abortion clinics are not the same as those done in most hospitals) and that this severely restricts the number of clinics in what is the second most populous state. The Supreme Court is currently divided on the issue, but a ruling isn’t due until late June. Roughly half of the abortion clinics in the state have closed already, and the majority of the rest depend on a favorable ruling to stay open. (On a related note: here’s a Rolling Stone article titled Lone-Star Crazy: How Right-Wing Extremists Took Over Texas.) (And also, this could lead to a situation like this one predicted by The Onion.)
Texas also wanted to cut Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood (who is suing) because 3% of the organization’s expenses go towards abortion, which Republican lawmakers oppose. Of course, this directly penalized the poorest patients, who are most in need of medical services offered by Planned Parenthood (including the 97% of the funding that goes to medical exams, birth control, mammograms, etc.).
Missouri also has some pretty strict laws, including a 72-hour waiting period (the longest in the country). A bill was proposed a year ago to require the biological father’s permission before performing an abortion, effectively condemning rape victims to get consent from their abuser, but looking at Missouri abortion laws today, I don’t think that bill passed.
Indiana, though, passed a law banning abortions performed because of fetal genetic abnormalities. And yet, something tells me they won’t be subsidizing the health care of fetuses and babies born with severe defects, or psychological support for the parents…
Alabama just passed a bill that treats abortion clinics like sex offenders, meaning that they can’t be within 2,000 feet of an elementary or middle school. This would shut down two of the state’s five clinics (but those two alone provide 72% of abortions). Obviously, no other medical facilities are subject to the same rules!
Oklahoma state legislature just passed a bill that would make providing abortions a felony, which goes directly against Roe v. Wade. This won’t become the law unless the governor signs it into law, but she is expected to do so, given her record.
And it looks like a long stretch of cities in the South won’t have access to abortions after the first trimester, due to recent bills.
This may be because I’m from Quebec, but I really can’t understand why people would want their rights and medical care to regress to pre-1970s standards…
I feel like the only positive development lately is that the FDA expanded access to abortion by modifying its requirements regarding the abortion pill.
If you feel moved to help, there are several petition online for the various bills I mentioned, and you can always make a donation to the National Organization for Women.
[Update, June 27th, 2016: I am unbelievably happy to announce that the Supreme Court has struck down the Texas abortion clinic restrictions!]