Waiting Weeks for Appointments, Crossing State Lines, and Traveling Hundreds of Miles Could Become a Reality for Women Across the Country
WASHINGTON D.C. -- As the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Wednesday for the most significant abortion case in decades - the Center for Reproductive Rights’ challenge to the unprecedented barriers Texas created in 2013 to stop women from accessing safe and legal abortion - we are seeing the consequences play out in real-time in Louisiana. Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay that allowed a clinic shutdown law in Louisiana to take effect immediately, which will ultimately force the closure of all but one health center that provides safe, legal abortion in the state. “Overnight, the ruling plunged Louisiana’s four abortion clinics into chaos.... Two clinics, in Bossier City and Baton Rouge, put all procedures on hold and referred patients to facilities in Shreveport and New Orleans,” reported the Guardian.
The stakes for women in these cases cannot be overstated. If the court lets these clinic shutdown laws stand, it will mean that even though abortion is legal, it is effectively banned for many women. Similar laws have been enacted in other states:
- In Alabama, if the clinic shutdown law were implemented, it would leave women with only one health center that provides safe, legal abortion in the entire state —down from five. As reported in the New York Times, “the lone surviving clinic could never meet the demand for abortions in Alabama.”
- In Wisconsin, the courts found that a clinic shutdown law would force women to wait up to 10 weeks to access an abortion — which is even worse than the situation in Texas. At the federal trial, an independent, court-appointed medical expert said of this law, “I think it is an unacceptable experiment to … decrease (access to) abortion and see if people would die. It is not acceptable. It is not ethical. People will resort to illegal abortions.”
- In Mississippi, a clinic shutdown law would eliminate access to safe, legal abortion entirely.
- In Missouri, Planned Parenthood has been forced to stop offering abortions in Columbia due to a similar clinic shutdown law, forcing women to travel to Kansas City or St. Louis for an abortion.
Statement from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“A woman’s right to access safe, legal abortion in the United States is before the Supreme Court this week. We’ve seen the stakes in Louisiana, where we are seeing women struggling to access safe, legal abortion. This is exactly what we saw in Texas, when the clinic shutdown law temporarily went into effect. Our health centers were inundated with calls from frightened patients hoping they could still access the care they needed at the few health centers that remained open. If these law are upheld, the effects could reverberate to women in states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Mississippi. At the end of the day, this is just another example of politicians working overtime to do underhandedly what they can’t do outright — ban women from accessing safe and legal abortion. Let me be clear: hundreds of thousands of women will lose access to care if these laws take effect, and women will pay the price.”
The large number of recently enacted abortion restrictions has dramatically reshaped the landscape for women seeking an abortion. In 2000, 31 percent of women of reproductive age lived in a state hostile to abortion rights, with no women living in a state with enough restrictions to be considered extremely hostile. By 2014, 57 percent of women lived in a state that is either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
We have seen the devastating consequences for women in Texas. In fact,researchers found that some women are already waiting as long as 20 days to access abortion in Texas. And the situation for women could get even worse. If the Supreme Court allows all of the 2013 Texas restrictions to go into full effect, the 5.4 million women of reproductive age in the state will be left with only 10 health centers that provide safe, legal abortion in the entire state — down from approximately 40 health centers before passage of this dangerous law. Researchers estimate that wait times at the remaining 10 health centers would increase dramatically, forcing longer delays that double the percentage of abortions in the second trimester.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With over 650 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
March 01, 2016