What if a Waiting Period for an Abortion Was 30 Days Long?
Update: The Department of Health has now agreed to “[rescind] the language regarding the 30-day period for blood tests.” It has not addressed the medically unnecessary clinic regulations that cold still shutter every provider in the state.
A number of states require that a pregnant person wait 24 hours after meeting with a doctor before she can have the visit to officially terminate a pregnancy. A steadily growing set have found their own ways to increase that wait, either by putting additional requirements on parental consent, by extending that wait to 72 hours as they did in Utah, or by making a patient wait 72 hours and refusing to allow weekends or holidays to be included as was the case in South Dakota. Anti-choice activists justify the extensive waits as a way to hedge against “buyers remorse,” even going as far as to compare it to “consumer protection” rules like getting a mortgage.
Few abortion opponents will openly admit that the real hope is that a potential patient will time out of being able to obtain an abortion — a possibility that is always there. Louisiana, however, doesn’t need to actually admit the real goal behind their potential new, unreasonable wait. Their game plan? A minimum 30-day wait prior to an abortion.
Louisiana has a already taken a number of novel, never before seen approaches to try to shut down abortion providers in the state. The most unusual was a 2010 bill that would’ve prohibited health care providers from being covered by the state and private Medical Malpractice Acts when they performed elective abortions. The goal was to make it far too financially risky for abortion providers to continue to offer abortions, knowing that if there was any complication they would likely be forced to cover major court costs out of pocket. The bill was especially dangerous due to a state law that allowed abortion patients to sue a provider up to 10 years after the abortion occurred.
Using medical requirements to cut off abortion access obviously isn’t a new ploy for Louisiana, but the newest attempt goes beyond the standard “regulate a clinic out of existence” that we’ve seen in states like North Dakota, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Texas, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and on and on. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has released a new list of clinic requirements that is over 20 pages long, requirements that advocates claim are likely to shut down every provider in the state.
Should one or more clinic remain open, though, there is a backup to ensure abortion is still nearly unavailable. “Patients must have documented in their charts that hemoglobin and rh factor lab tests were performed at least 30 days prior to the abortion procedure,” writes the New Orleans Abortion Fund. “This means that some patients will risk being beyond the 20 week deadline in Louisiana to have an abortion, and will add to the procedure costs for all patients, as they will have to wait an additional month.”
An additional month.
The immediate impact is obvious, of course, starting with the fact that this means that every person who wants an abortion in the state will be required to have an aspiration or surgical procedure versus medication abortion. Assuming a person confirmed a pregnancy after a missed period, she would still be a minimum of 8 weeks pregnant before she could actually have an abortion. A medication abortion is only approved for use up to 9 weeks, making the logistics practically impossible.
If the state department of health does approve this requirement, every patient in the state would be required to have a more invasive procedure, as well as put off the abortion for weeks based on a medically unnecessary whim of anti-choice advocates. Should the regulations begin closing clinics as well, a move that pro-choice allies see as a likely result, that would also create a bottleneck of provision, pushing a number of patients to have later abortions, likely moving a number into the second trimester of their pregnancy.
Besides the increased expense that occurs with a later abortion, there is the additional physical burden of simply remaining pregnant, such as the physical discomfort, illness, increased weight and blood pressure. There are also the emotional issues that are inherent, such as the increased likelihood that those who intend to abort will find themselves much more likely to have to disclose being pregnant to those around them.
But maybe that’s the point. The longer you remain pregnant, the harder it becomes to obtain an abortion, due to the expense, the fact that people are likely to learn about your situation, and that you will be forced to tell people about your pregnancy, making your health decisions no longer your own and up for public scrutiny. If the state can’t force you to carry to term, perhaps exposing you to more people who can put pressure on you will help.
Because in the end, the true intents of the regulations are to delay, shame and harass. If you go through all of that, and you still want to end your pregnancy, well, at least they can rest assured knowing they did everything in their power to make you suffer while you waited.
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