Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) approved new abortion clinic restrictions on Tuesday that threaten to, in the words of Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, “essentially ban abortion statewide.” Bentley claims the new law will simply ensure that Alabama’s abortion clinics are held to appropriate safety standards. But in reality, the complicated new restrictions will put an unnecessary burden on the state’s handful of remaining clinics, likely forcing them to close their doors.
Alabama is following in the footsteps of states like North Dakota and Mississippi, where Republican lawmakers have passed similar laws to indirectly restrict abortion access by targeting women’s health clinics. That popular anti-choice tactic — known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP — represents one of the most serious affronts to reproductive rights in the country because it is such an effective way to cut off women’s access to abortion.
After Alabama’s new TRAP law takes effect on July 1, the state’s four licensed abortion clinics will have 180 days to meet the new standards. Clinics will need to update their facilities to meet all the same standards as ambulatory surgical clinics — which often includes unnecessary measures like widening doorways and replacing flooring — and abortion doctors will be required to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Many abortion clinics can’t afford to make those costly updates to their buildings, and hospitals often deny abortion providers admitting privileges even after they apply for them.
Nikema Williams, the vice president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, told the Associated Press that there’s no good reason to require Alabama’s abortion clinics to adhere to these arbitrary standards. “Having admitting privileges is not a requirement for being a licensed medical provider and is not a designation of the quality of a provider. Admitting privileges do not hasten a patient’s care in the event of an emergency,” she explained.
Nevertheless, Republicans are successfully advancing TRAP laws all over the country this year. The anti-choice lawmakers in Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas are all also currently considering these type of abortion clinic restrictions.