When SCOTUS came down with the unanimous decision requiring freer access for anti-abortion protesters at abortion clinics, I posted a diary asking why it was necessary to have separate abortion clinics in a liberal city like Boston. The feedback I got in the comments was that the anti-abortion movement has managed make general purpose medical clinics reluctant to put up with the pressure. In many places even women with some insurance coverage or the ability to come up with some money may find access to appropriate care limited to specialty clinics. For poor women without funds or funding the situation is even worse. Organizations like Planned Parenthood may be their only recourse.
The next move is underway is several red states with various laws that are piling on legal restrictions that make it ever more difficult for abortion clinics to continue to operate. Texas is probably the most visible example.
In just over the past year, the number of abortion clinics in Texas fell from 41 to 20, and watchdogs say that as few as six may be left by September.As long as Roe v Wade remains in force no state can pass laws that would outright prohibit abortion. That would likely happen in some states if the decision were ever overturned. But having a legal right to something doesn't mean too much in practice for women who are being denied access to legal and safe abortions. Many of them will be forced into the back alley abortions so common in an earlier era. There is also an obvious push to make contraception, particularly emergency contraception, harder to come by.
Many of those closed because of the requirement that doctors at those clinics obtain hospital admitting privileges within a certain radius of the clinic, and many doctors couldn’t comply. That requirement began November 1. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the law that started it all.
Bitter fighting over the law last summer propelled state senator Wendy Davis into the national spotlight, and she is now running for Texas governor on the Democratic ticket.
“We’re seeing delays,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “We’re seeing people being pushed further into pregnancy, having to leave the state, having to drive and sleep in their cars in parking lots because of these barriers to access.”
The last restriction under the law goes into effect Sept. 1. All abortion clinics at that point must have upgraded their facilities to ambulatory surgery centers. Busby says many can’t afford it and more will close.
Women with money and connections always found it much easier to attend to these difficulties. When society ladies checked into a discrete clinic and were absent from a big charity ball the code word was she is having her wisdom teeth removed. Rich ladies in Texas will still be able to get those nasty little wisdom teeth removed.
There is an obvious ethical argument to be made about the fundamental injustice of this. However, the idea that a claim of equal protection under the 14th amendment isn't very promising given the present judicial climate. There is a long series of court decisions upholding the Hyde amendment that prohibits the us of Medicaid funds for elective abortion along with various other such restrictions on federal programs. It is possible that at some point burdensome clinic regulations might be found to have passed any possible claim to reasonable regulation. However, that point does not yet appear to be at hand.
The only solution is going to be at the ballot box.