State Abortion Restrictions Hurt Teens
January 20, 2017
Happy 44th birthday, Roe v. Wade! It would be great to say that you’ve been able to ensure abortion access for everyone since January 22, 1973, but that just isn’t the case. Over the past 44 years, more than 1,000 bills have been passed to restrict people’s access to abortions. In fact, 30 percent (a total of 334) of those anti-choice restrictions were enacted during the past seven years. What gives?
One reason for the spike in targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws is another Supreme Court case from 1992: Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This case says that states cannot impose an “undue burden” on those wishing to get an abortion, but some states have taken advantage of the vague wording to instead put restrictions on both abortion seekers and providers. For example, many states now have laws that require abortion facilities to also provide “ambulatory surgical care.” However, the overwhelming majority of abortions don’t require that amount of equipment, staff or space. And just last month, the governor of Ohio signed a law that banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. (Several other states have already passed similar laws.) It should be noted that almost 99 percent of abortions occur before the 21st week of pregnancy, and most abortions that are performed after this are due to a serious threat to the woman’s health or a serious problem with the fetus. Texas also recently tried to pass a rule forcing all fetal tissue (whether from an abortion or a miscarriage) to be buried or cremated, but an organization called Whole Woman’s Health filed a lawsuit against the state and was able to delay a decision from being made.
Everyone is allowed their own opinions on abortion, but restricting access to safe, sanitary and inexpensive abortions causes more harm than good. TRAP laws that require abortion facilities to be unnecessarily equipped have already forced many clinics to shut down due to the extra expenses. When clinics shut down, there are fewer available to provide safe abortion services. This especially hurts teens who often have less access to the extra money or transportation required to reach a shrinking number of clinics that provide abortion services. When abortion services are not accessible, history shows that people, including teens, pursue illegal and unsafe abortions; these often lead to medical complications.
The question is what can we do to stop the harm that these restrictive laws inflict. Well, we can start with great sex ed: it can prevent teens from needing abortions in the first place. And if you know that an anti-abortion bill is going to be voted on by your state’s government, you have the power to call your legislators and ask for a “no” vote. Finally, you can check out the action center at Sexetc.org to see how else you can improve abortion access for people of all ages!