CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
All eyes have been trained on the Supreme Court this week, as the justices delivered a highly-anticipated decision allowing some for-profit companies to refuse to cover several types of contraception based on their owners’ religious beliefs. But that’s not the only recent policy change related to reproductive rights. Across the country, several new abortion restrictions also became law this week.
Many of the state laws that are passed at the beginning of the year officially take effect on July 1, mostly because July is about halfway through the calendar year and the start of many states’ fiscal years. For women in at least five states, that means there are now even more limits on their abortion rights. Here’s how the legislative landscape changed on Tuesday:
ALABAMA: A new law requiring reproductive health clinics to bring their building codes in line with ambulatory surgical centers is now in place in Alabama. Under those requirements, clinics will be forced to make costly and unnecessary updates that don’t actually have anything to do with patient safety. For instance, the only abortion clinic in the northern part of the state has already been forced to close because it couldn’t afford to widen its hallways to accommodate a hypothetical stretcher. Alabama used to have six clinics, but that number is expected to be cut in half by the harsh new regulations.
FLORIDA: There are new restrictions on later abortions in Florida, where anti-choice groups have successfully inflamed manufactured controversies over doctors endorsing “infanticide” by performing abortions after fetuses can survive outside the womb. There’s no real evidence that doctors are currently doing this. Nonetheless, the state’s new law places unnecessary restrictions on late-term abortions — which are already extremely rare — and threatens doctors with life in prison if they perform an abortion after the fetus is viable. Restricting late-term abortion is becoming a very popular anti-choice strategy, and it’s a policy that typically ends up impacting incredibly vulnerable women and the handful of medical professionals who serve them.
INDIANA: Two new abortion restrictions just took effect in Indiana. The first tweaks a current law that requires abortion doctors to make partnerships with medical professionals who have admitting privileges from local hospitals, a medically unnecessary requirement that often forces clinics to close. Abortion opponents are celebrating the new law, pointing out that it’s similar to one in Texas that has forced dozens of clinics out of business (although, fortunately, Indiana’s isn’t as restrictive). The state’s second law restricts women’s insurance coverage for abortion, which is another popular method of indirectly limiting women’s access to the expensive medical procedure.
MISSISSIPPI: A 20-week abortion ban is now in place in Mississippi, which just became the latest state to enact this blatantly unconstitutional restriction on the procedure. These so-called “fetal pain” laws are based on the scientifically inaccurate premise that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks gestation. And because of the way that Mississippi’s new measure calculates gestation, it actually ends up being even more restrictive than similar laws in other states, shaving off an additional two weeks from the window to access legal abortion services. Mississippi’s governor has been upfront about the fact that he’s approving multiple restrictions on reproductive rights with the ultimate goal of ending abortion in his state for good.
SOUTH DAKOTA: In South Dakota, doctors are no longer allowed to perform abortions based on the fetuses’ sex. Since an estimated 92 percent of abortions take place before it’s even possible to determine whether the fetus is a boy or girl, and there’s absolutely no evidence that the state’s residents are ending pregnancies specifically based on gender, it’s not clear why this restriction is necessary in the first place. In reality, these type of “sex-selective abortion bans” are simply based on racial stereotypes about the Asian-American community preferring boys over girls. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum points out that this legislation is damaging to women of color because it subjects them to unnecessary scrutiny about their reproductive health decisions, and abortion doctors say they have no idea how to enforce it in practice.