We may sit over 40 years removed from the days of Roe v. Wade, but here in the United States, resistance to medical abortions still remains painfully strong. In several Southern states, the sentiment even appears to be growing. A study conducted by Bloomberg BusinessWeek this winter found that at least 73 clinics have been shut down since 2011, with another seven shutting their doors since the start of the calendar year alone. To put that in perspective, that rate of roughly 19 abortion centers being closed per year is more than double what it was as early back as 2008.
The fact that these new statistics sit parallel to the 200 new abortion restrictions that have been put in place since 2011 – more than had been enacted in the entire previous decade – is no mere coincidence.
New state laws requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at all local hospitals within 30 miles of their office, laws calling for increased procedure costs, demanding wider hallways or new surgical sinks – many of which have been spearheaded by none other than Texas Gov. Rick Perry – keep pro-choice advocates awake at night.
We find ourselves at a point where six different states across the country – Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri – are down to one abortion clinic, forcing women seeking an abortion procedure to travel great distances in order to get the procedure. In Texas, where the abortion restrictions are at their most severe, many women now find themselves forced to drive for hundreds of miles in order to reach a clinic.
Texas, a state that does not require a sex education curriculum in its public schools, has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and has consistently challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for employer-provided contraception.
Because states cannot outright ban abortions, they have resorted to limiting access to centers that can provide abortion services. Although state lawmakers may wholeheartedly believe that they are helping the common good with these regulations, in reality all they are doing is forcing women to either resort to more dangerous means in order to have their abortions performed or have a child that they do not feel they prepared to have.
The effects are already noticeable. This past December, 38-year-old Pennsylvania mother Jennifer Whalen was brought up with several major felony charges and many other misdemeanor counts. Her crime was purchasing the drugs misoprostol and mifepristone, drugs that are used safely outside the United States, but here are only allowed to be administered by a supervising medical practitioner, in order to help her newly impregnated 16-year-old daughter. Because Whalen did not have health insurance, she was forced to take matters into her own hands and purchase the drugs without the necessary prescription.
The topic isn’t pretty, and in a perfect world there would be no need for any abortions to take place, but that’s not the world we live in. By restricting and making abortion procedures vastly more difficult to have done, lawmakers are putting millions of women at risk.