On Thursday afternoon, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) approved a measure that is expected to close four of the state’s five abortion clinics. The new law is directly modeled on similar clinic restrictions in Texas that are already wreaking havoc on women’s access to abortion services in the Lone Star State.
Jindal also signed a measure that will ban Planned Parenthood employees from providing any material about sexual health in public schools. After approving the two pieces of legislation in a Baptist church, the governor released a statement saying he’s “proud to sign these bills because they will help us continue to protect women and the life of the unborn in our state.”
Women’s health advocates, who are concerned about the dwindling access to legal abortion services as Southern states continue to pass harsh restrictions on clinics, disagree.
“When Gov. Jindal heralds his newly enacted law, he is celebrating a measure that corners women into using dangerous back alley procedures, unlicensed practitioners and the black market drugs already seen peddled on the streets of New Orleans,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “By shuttering nearly all legal providers of abortion care in the state, Gov. Jindal is putting at risk the health and safety not only of Louisiana women, but women from the region whose access to safe medical care in their own states has also been foreclosed.”
Since Texas’ harsh restrictions on abortion clinics grabbed headlines last summer, women’s access to abortion clinics has taken a sharp turn for the worse. Dozens of clinics are being forced to close in Texas, leaving hundreds of miles of the state without access to a single abortion provider. Similar laws are tied up in court in Mississippi and Alabama, but would have a similar impact if they’re allowed to take effect. And this legislative session, Louisiana and Oklahoma have moved forward with their own Texas-style clinic regulations. Women in the region are running out of options.
In order to justify tighter regulations on abortion clinics and providers, anti-choice lawmakers like Jindal typically claim that additional policies — like requiring doctors to have admitting privileges with local hospitals, which is the subject of Louisiana’s new law — are necessary to keep women safe. In reality, that’s been thoroughly debunked by medical professionals, who point out that these laws have no real basis in health and safety.
“Major medical groups like ACOG and AMA oppose these laws because they actually harm women by preventing them from getting high quality medical care,” Jennifer Dalven, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, pointed out. “Given that doctors and medical groups oppose these laws, we have to ask ourselves why some politicians are pushing them?”
The main reason that politicians continue to push them is because they’ve been incredibly politically successful. By framing abortion restrictions in bureaucratic terms, it’s possible for these policies to fly under the radar, rather than provoking the widespread outrage that outright bans on abortion tend to inspire.
The only clinic in Louisiana that currently has admitting privileges is one located in Shreveport. The abortion clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans likely won’t be able to comply with the law, leaving impoverished women who can’t afford to make a long trip to another city with few options. Amy Irvin, a founding board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, an organization that helps low-income people access reproductive services, recently told ThinkProgress that women in the state are “under siege.”