Thursday, May 22, 2014

Finally, a mention of rural women regarding yet another abortion regulation

Louisiana yesterday passed a bill that would regulate the state's abortion providers in ways similar to laws in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama: by requiring providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.  The law passed by a vote of 88 to 5, and Governor Bobby Jindahl has indicated he will sign it into law.  The New York Times covered the story today under the headline, "With New Bill, Abortion Limits Spread in the South."  In their lede, Jeremy Alford and Erik Eckholm note that the law "rais[es] the possibility of drastically reduced access to abortion across a broad stretch of the South."  Indeed, the reason it is likely to have an impact across the region is that the similar laws in neighboring Texas and Mississippi have already closed clinics.  Indeed, the closure of the sole abortion provider in Mississippi is now at stake.  Enforcement of the Alabama law has been enjoined for now.

At oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit last month regarding the Mississippi law, that state's lawyer
said that although the law would force the state’s sole abortion clinic to close, abortion providers were available in neighboring states. One of the judges, Stephen A. Higginson, responded by bringing up a possibility that has since become reality. 
“Alabama has passed a law,” he said. “Louisiana is considering one. So then what?”
The New York Times story suggests that the Louisiana law is likely to close three or four of the state's five clinics.

While coverage of the Texas and Mississippi laws has rarely mentioned the impact that the laws will have on rural women--somewhat surprising since the clinics that have closed so far in Texas have been in the Rio Grande Valley--the NYT story does mention this group.  The journalists quote Herbert B. Dixon, a Democrat from Alexandria, who voted against the bill:
The problem I have with the bill is access, especially in the rural areas I represent. There will be none.
If the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi laws all take effect as their supporters hope, leading to the closure of many clinics, a woman in New Orleans would have to travel 300 miles to the nearest clinic.  
But supporters of the law call such distances acceptable. 
“What’s worse? Driving 300 miles to get an abortion from a clinic that meets a better standard of care, or going to a substandard one?” asked A. Eric Johnston, a Birmingham lawyer and strong opponent of abortion.
Other abortion foes have admitted that laws like that just passed in Louisiana are not aimed at protecting women's health.  The New York Times quotes a member of the board of Pro-Life Mississippi:
These incremental laws are part of a greater strategy to end abortion in our country.  It’s part of it, and one day, our country will be abortion free.
I have written about the abortion law's "undue burden" standard and rural women here.  

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