The biggest news this week was the 5th Circuit’s decision that Mississippi’s 2012 law requiring all doctors who do abortions have admitting privileges could not be used to shut the state’s only clinic down. As a result of that decision, a number of other states are finding themselves wondering if their own laws are constitutional or not. Alabama’s similar TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) bill is in mid-litigation, and the judge has decided to hold off on his ruling until Monday to take the Mississippi ruling into consideration. Now Louisiana and Oklahoma are both trying to convince their residents that their own identical laws which will close all but one or two clinics per state won’t be blocked as well.
If Alabama’s TRAP bill does survive the courts on Monday, there will be just one open clinic in the state, in Tuscaloosa. The Huntsville clinic is supposed to be reopening soon in a new location, in a building that meets the bill’s new regulations. But a city council member is getting in the way of that reopening, allowing anti-abortion activists to stake a claim that although the building was zoned for medical procedures before, it shouldn’t be anymore, and that it is too close to a school to be allowed to open. If the space gets rezoned to keep the clinic from opening, well, that will be just one more case for the courts.
Sadly, the Mississippi decision can’t do anything to stop the flood of clinics being closed by TRAP bills in Texas. Although the new regulations in Texas’s HB 2 still have a month before they fully go into effect, more Texas clinics are shuttering as they admit they can’t adhere to the strict and medically unnecessary regulations of the new law. This week the Austin location of Whole Women’s Health shut its doors, suffering a similar fate to its clinics in western and south Texas earlier this year. “Women deserve the kind of care that we offer,” owner Amy Hagstrom Miller told Cosmo. “They deserve that holistic approach that welcomes the whole woman and her whole family to be part of day that is very challenging for most women in their lives. This community is losing that care model for no reason.”
In Kansas, one of the state’s last handful of clinics has closed, citing the provider’s decision to retire, but the clinic had also been facing the same type of regulation into an ambulatory surgical center that the Texas clinics were mandated to undergo, though they had been battling those regulations in court. That leaves the state with just two clinics in Kansas City, and one in Wichita. The last clinic in Toledo, Ohio, had its license revoked this week for failing to obtain a transfer agreement with a hospital within 30 miles, and if a court does not block the order there will be no more providers in western Ohio.
If there is any doubt that the plan is literally to shut down as many clinics as possible by legislation, then force out each clinic one by one that is still left, this news that a Catholic Church has purchased the building housing the only abortion clinic in Lansing, Michigan, and is forcing it to move out in 2 months should make it clear. Unless the clinic can find a new building to lease, the capital of Michigan will be without a provider, and pregnant people will be driving an hour and a half in one direction to get to clinics in Detroit, Flint or Grand Rapids instead.
While TRAP bills are closing down clinics across the country, the eroding of buffer zones due to the recent Supreme Court ruling is making it that much more difficult for patients to access the front doors without harassment. New York reports of abortion protesters physically setting themselves in place to provoke confrontations with patients, and a San Francisco Planned Parenthood says protesters are “plaguing” them. A New Hampshire’s buffer zone is currently on hold. Massachusetts, meanwhile, has passed a new bill that may not have the permanence of a buffer for preventing harassment, but it does have serious teeth to punish anti-abortion activists once they do interfere with a patient’s right to access care. The question is, will abortion opponents start suing the city back, like these protesters are in Jackson, Miss., where they claim they are being unfairly targeted by police.
Protesting clinics isn’t just about abortion, either. This week in Cosmo, I reported on a full scale series of tactics trying to shut a new Planned Parenthood in Richfield, Minn. That clinic simply offers birth control.
All those stories a bit of a downer? Then be sure to read this amazing article on Dr. Willie Parker, the provider at the last clinic in Mississippi, and remember exactly why reproductive rights are worth fighting for.
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