In New Orleans, access to abortion is becoming more and more off-limits. Photo by Viewminder.
All across the country, conservative political groups are rolling back abortion access with small laws that chip away at reproductive health clinics.
In Louisiana, for example, state lawmakers passed a bill that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at area hospitals. That may sound like it’s not a big deal, but reproductive health advocates say it could easily wind up shutting down every abortion-providing clinic in the state. Doctors would have only 81 days to get admitting privileges, when the process typically takes at least 90 days, and they’d be relying on hospitals to grant them the privileges—not a sure bet in a state that’s hostile to abortion rights. Louisiana health officials won’t even let a new Planned Parenthood open in New Orleans and recently proposed 20 new pages of tighter rules for abortion clinics in the state. It’s worth pointing out that while politicians push these laws as a way to protect women’s health, these regulations are rules based on politics, not scientific evidence about what’s best for women.
For now, the admitting privileges law is tied up in court and Louisiana is holding onto its five remaining abortion clinics that serve 2.3 million women.
But what would happen if the clinics were forced to close? According to a new report, Louisiana women needing an abortion would have to drive an average of 208 miles each way to get the operation that’s supposed to be legal and accessible nationwide.
Researchers at the University of San Francisco looked at data from the 5,641 women who received abortions at three of Louisiana’s five facilities over the course of a year. The data showed that the Louisiana women traveled an average of 58 miles each way to have an abortion. If all of Louisiana’s facilities close, the researchers estimate the average distance would more than triple.
“Lawmakers should weigh the evidence we do have—that closing abortion facilities will obstruct access to health care, forcing women to travel much longer distances for services—against the absence of evidence that requiring providers to establish admitting privileges will make an already safe procedure even more so,” writes Dr. Sarah Roberts, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and an author on the study.
Clearly, the ability to get an abortion shouldn’t depend on your ability to get a car, pay for gas, and find time to drive 400 miles round-trip. Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health turned the research into this very readable infographic. Share it widely, please.
Sarah Mirk is Bitch Media’s online editor.