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Anti-choice groups "have spent 40 years drafting and lobbying for rules that make operating abortion clinics highly difficult," Bloomberg reports. (Photo: Peoples World/flickr/cc)

Right-Wing Attacks on Abortion Access Driving Clinic Closures Across US

"At no time since before 1973...has a woman's ability to terminate a pregnancy been more dependent on her zip code or financial resources to travel."

Deirdre Fulton

Driven by right-wing, state-level attempts to "legislate the industry out of existence," abortion clinics in the U.S. are closing at a record pace, according to a Bloomberg analysis out Wednesday.

"At no time since before 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, has a woman's ability to terminate a pregnancy been more dependent on her zip code or financial resources to travel," Bloomberg reporter Esmé Deprez wrote.

"Those who come to our clinics should be able to receive the care they need without worrying about clinic shutdowns or medically unnecessary obstacles."
—Amy Hagstrom Miller, Whole Woman's Health

The data compiled by Bloomberg News, which builds on a similar undertaking from 2013, shows that since 2011, at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure, while just 21 opened.

The shut-downs occurred in 30 states, and "the downward trend has accelerated to the fastest annual pace on record since 2011, with 31 having closed or stopped performing the procedure each year on average," Deprez reports.

"No region was exempt, though some states lost more than others," she continues. "Texas, which in 2013 passed sweeping clinic regulations that are under scrutiny by the Supreme Court, saw the most: at least 30. It was followed by Iowa, with 14, and Michigan, with 13. California’s loss of a dozen providers shows how availability declined, even in states led by Democrats, who tend to be friendly to abortion rights."

So-called "TRAP" (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws, which women's health advocates say impose unnecessary and burdensome regulations on abortion providers, "drove more than a quarter of the closings," according to Bloomberg

In a separate piece published Wednesday in Bloomberg Businessweek, reporter Meaghan Winter explains more:

In recent years states have enacted hundreds of laws designed by activists to make it more difficult—and more expensive—to perform abortions. Twenty-two states require abortion clinics to follow codes comparable to those of ambulatory surgical centers; at least 11 states specify the width of clinic rooms or hallways. Many clinics struggled to stay in the black well before legislation required them to remodel their corridors.

This outcome is the fruit of a decades-long strategy, Winter writes, noting that "[a]dvocacy organizations including Americans United for Life and National Right to Life have spent 40 years drafting and lobbying for rules that make operating abortion clinics highly difficult, such as the requirement that the clinics meet surgical center standards."

Such requirements are at the heart of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly v. Cole), the Supreme Court case to consider whether Texas' anti-abortion law, known as HB 2, will stand. If it does, it would shutter all but 10 abortion providers in the state, reproductive rights experts warn. Oral arguments will be heard in the case next week. 

The ruling, promised by June, is likely to have national implications in that it "could influence the fate of some of the more than 200 abortion restrictions enacted since a Republican-led push began in 2011," notes Bloomberg 

"We are here for the women in Texas and around the country—women who are being denied their most basic rights," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of the Whole Woman’s Health clinic network and lead plaintiff in the case. "Those who come to our clinics should be able to receive the care they need without worrying about clinic shutdowns or medically unnecessary obstacles. As we stand before the court, we will be side by side with every woman and family in Texas and this entire nation."

Indeed, added Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health: "For immigrant Latinas in the Rio Grande Valley, allowing HB 2 to stand could mean a complete lockout from abortion access, a de facto total abortion ban. Other states who are considering anti-choice legislation are waiting to see what the Justices decide. This is a matter of human rights and reproductive justice, and Latinas will take our fight to the Court, to the state legislatures, to the streets, and anywhere else necessary until we secure health, dignity, and justice for all."

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