Which States Have The Worst Abortion Laws and The Least Clinics? 9 American States Under Attack
As we all know too well, abortion access in America has been the target of a concerted assault by Republican lawmakers over the last several years. The current epicenter in this ongoing battle is Louisiana, where a new anti-abortion law has the potential to reduce the number of clinics in the state to one. If that happens, the entire 450-mile stretch between Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama would have no abortion access whatsoever. The law in question requires abortion clinics to obtain medically unnecessary admitting privileges from nearby hospitals, which many hospitals refuse to grant.
The tactic of passing TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws has been a favorite of anti-abortion politicians over the last couple of years, particularly in the South. A number of states, many of which already have very limited abortion access, face the prospect of having abortion almost or completely eliminated within their borders if newly passed laws are allowed to take effect. Should that happen, women seeking abortions will have to travel to travel out of state — that is, unless neighboring states also eradicate all of their abortion clinics, at which point the Supreme Court will almost certainly be compelled to weigh in on the constitutionality of TRAP laws.
Here’s a rundown of the states that either have very few abortion clinics to begin with, face the prospect of mass closures of state abortion providers, or both.
5 clinics, may be reduced to 1
Governor Bobby Jindal signed an admitting privileges law in May that’s expected to shut down four of the five clinics in Louisiana. It also imposes a 24-hour waiting period for medical abortions, meaning that women seeking abortions will have to make an additional trip to out-of-the-way clinics. Jindal also signed an anti-sex education law on the same day. (In case it wasn't clear that the primary goal here is not to save lives, but rather, to prevent women from having sex unless they also want to have babies.)
1 clinic, may be reduced to none
A 2013 admitting privileges law had threatened to close the Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion provider in the state. Unlike so many other Southern abortion doctors, however, physicians at that clinic actually were able to obtain admitting privileges, so it’ll stay open for now. Of course, that still means there’s only one abortion clinic in the state. There’s also the state legislature’s attempt to impose a six-week ban on abortions; that law was knocked down as unconstitutional, but it’s being appealed by the state’s anti-abortion attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem.
3 clinics, may be reduced to 1
In May, Governor Mary Fallin signed a Texas-style law requiring abortion clinics in Oklahoma to obtain admitting privileges from a hospital within 30 miles. This could have the effect of closing down two of the state’s three clinics. On a per-capita basis, the state has one clinic for every 1.27 million residents.
1 clinic, may be reduced to none
The Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, and it’s in danger of being closed down. The state’s anti-abortion governor, Phil Bryant, signed a law that requires hospitals to obtain admitting privileges, and the JWHO was unable to do so. But a federal judge placed an injunction against that provision while the clinic attempts to comply, so the restriction is currently on hold and the clinic is still open. Bryant, however, has appealed to try and get that injunction reversed, and the case is currently under review.
23 clinics, may be reduced to 6
The omnibus anti-abortion package passed by the Texas state legislature in 2013 over Wendy Davis’s filibuster is leading to the steady closure of clinics in the state. There used to be 44 facilities that provided abortions in the state; now there are 23, and, by September, there could be as few as six. The location of the clinics is important as well — the shuttering of Southern clinics means that there’s currently no abortion access between San Antonio and the U.S.-Mexican border.
5 clinics, may be reduced to 2
Most of Alabama’s abortion doctors live out of state, which means they haven’t been able to obtain admitting privileges from nearby hospitals. That, in turn, means that three of the state’s five clinics may soon have to shut down. A judge is currently reviewing the case and will decide by the end of July whether or not to let the state’s admitting privileges law take effect. The state also passed a law imposing a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, which was so onerous that it was subject to a filibuster by a lawmaker who opposes abortions.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is a Democrat, but has nonetheless allowed several pieces of restrictive anti-abortion legislation to become law. He now has to make a decision on House Bill 1307, which would impose a three-day waiting period for women seeking abortions at the state’s one clinic. It’s unclear what Nixon is going to do; though his past record suggests he might sign it, some have speculated he’ll use a veto. Not because it’s a bad bill, but because he wants to serve in Hillary Clinton’s administration after his tenure as governor. Cravenly political? Sure. But that craven political move could prevent Missouri’s shamefully limited abortion access from becoming even more restricted.
Republicans in Arkansas’ state legislature passed a law in 2011 that bans abortions after 12 weeks. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe vetoed it — but Republicans overrode his veto, and it became law. A federal judge, however, placed an injunction against the law. Then she struck it down permanently, and then she ordered the state to pay $70,000 in legal fees to the physician and other plaintiffs who’d challenged the law to begin with. But none of that changes the fact that there’s still only one abortion clinic in the state.
Kansas was the birthplace of the modern anti-abortion movement in the 1980s. Not much has changed since then: In 2011, the state passed a TRAP law that, in addition to requiring admitting privileges for abortion doctors, mandated minimum dimensions for janitorial closets, hallways, and recovery rooms at clinics. Had the law been allowed to go into effect, it would have closed every one of the state’s three clinics. It was blocked by a federal judge, but that hasn’t stopped Kansas from imposing a whole slew of other anti-abortion legislation.
Editor's Note: If you'd like to contact your congressional representative about these laws, here's where you can do it. A lot of this legislation stems from the actions of state officials, though, and while there's no centralized search engine for state lawmakers, a quick Google search for "find my state senator [state name]" should put you on the right path.