Move over, baseball and apple pie: enacting draconian laws that severely infringe upon women's access to abortion — without technically infringing upon their constitutional rights — is on its way to becoming America's favorite past time.
Just a few days ago, a federal court of appeals upheld Texas' batshit insane abortion restrictions; by September, the law is expected to shutter all but six legal abortion providers in the state. This is insanely depressing and horrifying; what's even worse, it's far from an isolated occurrence. According to a 2013 Guttmacher report, Targeted Restriction of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws — which are meant to shut down safe and legal abortion clinics — have been enacted in 27 states. But because of a so-called "incremental strategy" anti-choice tactic, restrictive TRAP laws aren't necessarily on the media's radar.
This is definitely the case in Ohio, as Tara Culp-Ressler argues at ThinkProgress: she outlines the daunting obstacle course gradually erected by Ohio legislators in order to prevent women from exercising reproductive agency. First, there's the 2011 late-term abortion ban that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. It does not include an exception for cases of rape or incest, nor for serious fetal abnormalities that don't show until later in pregnancy. Second, we have a series of abortion restrictions that were passed last summer after being attached to the state's budget bill. Among those restrictions: huge cuts to Planned Parenthood, redirecting funds to "agencies that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women" (read: right-wing crisis pregnancy centers), and a requirement that doctors make women seeking abortion listen to the fetus' heartbeat.
Two of the other restrictions attached to the budget bill are meant to over-regulate abortion clinics in order to shut them down; this is similar to what's happening in Texas, only Ohio's laws are especially stringent. As Culp-Ressler explains:
TRAP laws typically take two different forms (and many states, like Texas, enact both versions). The first type requires abortion clinics to bring their building codes in line with the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, which typically involves costly and unnecessary updates like widening hallways and installing drinking fountains. The second type requires abortion doctors to enter into partnerships with local hospitals, in case one of their patients experiences severe complications and needs to be transferred to emergency care. These transfer agreements are totally superfluous, don't indicate how skilled an abortion provider is, and are opposed by major medical groups.
Ohio's TRAP laws are especially sucky because they forbid public hospitals from entering into partnerships with abortion providers. Because of this, abortion clinics statewide are being forced to close — for instance, Capital Care, the only remaining clinic in Toledo, may have to close. It currently has a transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, but it's possible the associated Ann Arbor hospital doesn't meet the stringent Ohio mandate. At Greater Toledo Right to Life's sixth pro-life legislation briefing, director of Ohio Right to Life legislative affairs Kayla Smith said the fact that "not one private hospital would sign a transfer agreement" is "such a reflection on the fact that Ohio is a pro-life state." Ugh. Meanwhile, the two abortion providers in Cincinnati are struggling to remain open; if they close, Culp-Ressler notes, "Cincinnati may become the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion clinic."
Restricting abortion access doesn't cause the abortion rate to drop — it just causes women to be more likely to seek out unsafe, illegal abortions. So wonderful to see so many politicians committed to putting women in easily-avoidable danger in order to protect the unborn.
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