Today the Supreme Court voted 5-to-3 to strike down two anti-abortion provisions that helped shut down abortion clinics in Texas, thus limiting people’s constitutional right to access abortions and take control of their own bodies.
One of these laws required abortion providers to get “admitting privileges” at local hospitals (privileges that were usually difficult for abortion providers to get). Another required abortion clinics to make costly renovations — like widening hallways and installing sophisticated air filtration systems — to qualify as “ambulatory care centers”.
Even though Texas legislators claimed that these laws would make abortions safer for women, abortion is already a very safe procedure; safer than childbirth, in fact. And even the people defending the law at the Supreme Court admitted that the laws had absolutely no medical benefit. In reality, they only helped shut down abortion clinics and forced people either to drive hundreds of miles to get abortions or to seek unsafe alternatives (aka. “back alley abortions”).
Although we’re celebrating the victory, we spoke with Nan Kirkpatrick, Executive Director at Texas Equal Access Fund — an organization that provides financial assistance to low-income people who want an abortion and cannot afford it — about other laws still in place that prevent people’s access to abortions.
“This [ruling] is a step in the right direction,” Kirkpatrick told Unicorn Booty, “but this is no means the end. The TEA Fund will be here, abortion funds around the country will work for abortion access for all people regardless of economic status. Even if we see more clinic opens it will be while until everyone has equal access.”
The Hyde Amendment
Organizations like the TEA fund exist because of a 1976 federal law called the “Hyde Amendment” which restricts federal funding for abortion access. As a result, Medicaid recipients can’t get abortions thereby restricting abortion access for low-income people.
Mandatory waiting periods
Texas (and 18 other states) requires abortion-seekers to wait for a 24-hour period before allowing the abortion to proceed. Three states require to 48 hours and five (including Missouri, North Carolina and Utah) require people to wait 72 hours. In 14 states, the waiting period begins only after the abortion-seeker gets in-person counseling, requiring the person to visit the abortion clinic twice just to get one abortion.
If a person has to drive a long distance to get an abortion, they might also have to get time off from work, child care and a place to stay during the waiting period, placing an additional time and financial burden on already beleagured abortion seekers. Six out of 10 U.S. women live in a states with waiting period laws; the Florida Supreme Court is currently deciding whether or not such laws are unconstitutional.
Mandatory sonogram laws
Right now, 25 states have laws requiring pregnant people to get a sonogram/ultrasound. Five of those states require doctors to describe the ultrasound image or show the image to the patient and 10 states require that the patient be offered the chance to view the image or listen to the fetus’ heartbeat whether the patient requests it or not. Several states even require trans-vaginal ultrasounds — that is, a sonogram that requires a wand to be inserted into a vagina — especially for early pregnancies since it’s difficult to get a visual image or audio of the fetus otherwise.
These laws are not medically necessary; they are just meant to make the process more uncomfortable and to make people feel shame.
Laws requiring doctors to lie
Arizona and Arkansas have laws requiring doctors tell pregnant people that they can reverse a medication-induced abortions after the process has begun (a claim that has not yet been proven as safe and effective). Five states require doctors to tell patients that abortion leads to increased occurrence of breast cancer, a claim which the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health have called total bullshit (though they used less colorful language).
Taxpayer-funded “Alternative/Crisis Pregnancy Centers”
Even as states slash funding for Planned Parenthood, seven have budgets directing thousands or even millions of taxpayer dollars to “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to be medical centers but are usually NOT staffed by licensed medical providers and offer no medical treatment beyond pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. These centers will encourage women to give birth and offer children up for adoption; sometimes they’ll provide free baby clothes or diapers but not enough that will actually help a low-income parent to effectively raise a child.
One investigation in Ohio found that counselors at at crisis pregnancy centers lied to patients, telling them that abortion causes infertility (it doesn’t), and offering no alternative forms of birth control beyond abstinence.
Parental notification/consent laws
Thirty-seven states have laws requiring people under the age of 18 (or 16) to get parental consent or notification for their abortions. Although many of these states have judicial bypass laws (meaning that a young person can get a court’s permission to have an abortion if they live in an abusive home or have other hardships). But the process can take a while, closing the window of time in which a person can get an abortion (most states only allow abortions during the first and second trimesters). Also, some judges use judicial bypasses as a way to verbally humiliate teenagers seeking abortions.
(featured image via ALL)