At least 54 abortion clinics across 27 states have shut down in the last three years under heavy pressure from new Republican-sponsored laws that have tightened restrictions on the procedure or regulations on providers.
According to a nationwide survey conducted by the The Huffington Post
, only two clinics — one in Massachusetts and one in Nebraska — have opened during that time.
"This kind of change is incredibly dramatic," Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, told the Post. "What we've been seeing since 1982 was a slow decline, but this kind of change . . . [is] so different from what's happened in the past."
A separate survey of state health departments by The Daily Beast also found that 724 abortion clinics are still operating across the country, the Post reported.
The Post survey found that the biggest loss of abortion providers came in Texas and Arizona, where a combination of new abortion restrictions and cuts to family planning funds have forced the closure of 21 — nine in Texas and 12 in Arizona. The closures leave Texas with nine providers still operating and Arizona with six, The Post reported.
The closures affect not only women seeking abortions but those who rely on the clinics for general health care services.
"This has turned into a nightmare," Kat Sabine, executive director of NARAL's Arizona affiliate, told the Post. "The kind of efforts the women have to take to get family planning or abortion services are just incredible, and you can only get care if you can get out of the community to do it. If you're on a reservation or rural part of the state, unless you have reliable transportation, you're not going to get care."
In addition to the closures, pro-choice advocates say some restrictions on abortion services make it more difficult for poor women to get the care they need when they need it. For example, the Post survey found that 26 states require a waiting period of at least 24 hours between a consultation and the procedure itself. That it makes doubly hard on low-income women living in rural areas, Nash told the online news publication.
"These restrictions have an uneven impact," Nash said. "Women who have resources, have a car, have some money in the bank, can access child care and take time off work can obtain an abortion, and women who are less well-off and don't have those kinds of resources are not able to access abortion services," she said.
While none of the new state laws passed since 2010 actually outlaw abortion, they do target providers with a powerful combination of restrictions and regulations that are hard — and for many impossible — to deal with, the Post noted.
The Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or "TRAP" laws, as they are called, require clinics to make expensive renovations to meet the same standards as hospitals in many cases. The regulations in effect turn them in ambulatory surgical centers. The changes required are often too costly for providers to make. As a result, they end up closing.
Anti-abortion advocates, however, insist that TRAP laws are designed to improve and protect women's health care and deny that they are responsible for closing down clinics. Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Americans United for Life (AUL), blamed the clinics themselves for the shutdowns.
"It was the choice of the abortion industry to locate their profitable abortion businesses in older buildings that would never pass muster for other outpatient surgical centers," Hamrick told the Post. "It was their choice to ignore the laws of any given state on building requirements for outpatient medical facilities — set by that state in line with a national standards board, not AUL — and choose locations that were not as safe."
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