This Year in Anti-Choice Tomfoolery: The Southwest

It’s been a banner year for anti-abortion politicians and their handlers, and we’ve only just passed the halfway mark. In the first three months of 2013, legislators introduced 694 provisions related to reproductive rights and health, and half of them sought to restrict access to abortion. Just let that number sink in for a moment.

Reproductive rights advocates have had little rest for the past few years as the anti-abortion legislation trend has gained steam. While some bills propose blatantly unconstitutional term limits on abortion, anti-choicers have had considerably more luck with attempts to legislate providers out of existence. These are called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws, and they are literally everywhere. Politicians pretend these laws are meant to protect the health of patients, but their anti-choice puppeteers are a little more honest – it’s all about reducing access to safe, legal abortion, and nothing more.

We begin with the Southwest. Keep in mind this is only legislation proposed in the first half of 2013. You can find your state’s current abortion restrictions at the Guttmacher Institute.


  • Blocked: Gov. Jan Brewer is currently appealing a judge’s ruling against a law preventing doctors who perform abortions from receiving Medicaid funds.

New Mexico:

  • Failed: A bill that would criminalize an abortion after rape or incest as “tampering with evidence.” Yes, really.
  • Failed: A bill that would require a patient wait 24 hours between state-mandated counseling (including an ultrasound) and getting an abortion.
  • Failed: A bill that would require minors notify their parents 48 hours before getting an abortion.

Why is this a problem?

Forcing patients to wait 24 hours between their first examination and the abortion poses two problems: It assumes that patients have not already thought carefully about their decision, and, in states with few providers, it means patients lose multiple days away from work, family and other obligations. They have to find and pay for lodging near their provider, childcare if they are a parent, and transportation. This imposes an immense financial hardship, especially for lower-income patients. For many, it makes accessing safe, legal abortion impossible.

Requiring parental notification or consent assumes a safe, healthy home life, where teenagers are free to tell their parents about their sexual decisions without fear of serious repercussions. It assumes the parents are present and competent (that is, not under the influence of drugs or alcohol), not abusive, and would not kick their child out of the home. These laws are opposed by every major medical organization in the country.


  • Passed: One parent must provide written consent, along with their government-issued proof of ID, for a minor to get an abortion. This may only be waived if the minor is a victim of sexual abuse and has notified the police of the abuse. Judicial bypass may only be obtained in the county in which the minor lives. Prior to the hearing, the court may require the minor to undergo a mental health evaluation and counseling.
  • Passed: Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure prohibiting family planning clinics from receiving state family planning funds. Uh…
  • In progress: A bill that would allow employers opt out of birth control and abortion coverage in their employee insurance plans.

Why is this a problem?

Judicial bypass is intended to be an alternative to parental notification or consent. A minor can anonymously go before a judge, who will decide, based on subjective criteria, if they are mature enough to have an abortion (whether they’re mature enough to be a parent is another matter). However, confidentiality is impossible in smaller towns, where any court staff may know the minor. In addition, if the only judges in the county are anti-abortion, the minor will not be granted permission, no matter how mature they are.


  • We all know this one. An omnibus bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest, ban telemedicine abortion, and close all but 5 providers in the state by requiring all abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical clinics was defeated in an 11-hour filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis and colleagues. A special session called to revive the bill after an illegal after-midnight vote has recessed until July 9.
  • Just a little extra: After Texas cut its family planning funds in 2012, 53 family planning clinics shut down. None were abortion providers.

Why is this a problem?

There are many reasons a person may need a later abortion, and setting any term limits denies the complexity of reproductive choice and the elements surrounding it.

Telemedicine abortion is medication abortion performed in areas where there are no providers. Typically, the patient will be examined in person, which may include an ultrasound by a technician and standard informed consent procedures. Once the consultation is complete, a doctor, via webcam, will press a button that opens a drawer to give the patient the medication. They take the first pill while the doctor watches, and come in for a follow-up exam when the abortion is complete. Telemedicine abortions allow a patient privacy and do not require driving for hours (multiple times, if there’s a state-mandated waiting period) to the nearest provider. Banning this form of administering an early abortion reduces or eliminates access for patients in rural areas.

There is no proof that ambulatory surgical centers are safer than the current model. Legal abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures in the country – only 0.3% of patients experience complications that require hospitalization. Upgrading to an ambulatory surgical center is expensive and unnecessary, and forces providers to close their clinics. Without access to safe, legal abortion, people will turn to back-alley butchers or attempt to perform an abortion themselves.

Tomorrow: The Southeast!

(Image via PeterJBellis on Flickr.)

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