These “Bad Medicine” Laws are Making it Nearly Impossible to Get an Abortion

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.33.11 PMBy now you’re probably familiar with Texas’ HB2, the anti-abortion law at the heart of the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. But HB2 is just one law in an epidemic of “bad medicine” anti-abortion restrictions that are sweeping the nation. Laws like this undermine health care by mandating burdensome, medically unnecessary requirements that are not aligned with evidence or patients’ needs. Many are based on outright lies.

In a recent report, “Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health Care,” the National Partnership for Women & Families describes the outrageous abortion restrictions facing women and dedicated abortion providers in 37 states. See a map showing where these laws have passed here.

So what do these laws mean for women? Here are a few examples:

  • If you are a woman in Kansas who has decided to have an abortion, your health care provider will have to give you state-mandated misinformation that abortion may lead to negative emotional outcomes—even though these claims have been debunked by the American Psychological Association—and that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, which has been debunked by the American Cancer Society. Your provider is forced by the state to tell you this, even though he or she knows it is untrue.
  • In Wisconsin, you must undergo an ultrasound before receiving abortion care—whether or not your provider thinks it is necessary and whether or not you want one. Your provider will have to display the ultrasound image and describe it to you in detail, even if you have made it clear that you do not want to see or hear it.
  • If you’re seeking abortion care in Utah, you will have to make an additional medically unnecessary visit to the clinic and then wait 72 hours before obtaining care. You will have to make arrangements to take off time from work or school, arrange child care if you already have children (the majority of women seeking abortion care do), and travel to the clinic twice to meet this requirement.
  • If you live in North Dakota, you cannot receive a medication abortion (using pills) via telemedicine, even though it is a safe and effective way to deliver care and could expand access for many women in this rural state. In addition, your health care provider will be forced to prescribe medication abortion according to the long-outdated protocol approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000, rather than in accordance with the current evidence-based standard of care. This means you will have to take a larger dosage for no medical reason, among other concerns.
  • Similar to women in Texas, if you live in Louisiana you will likely have to travel farther to obtain an abortion than you would for other common medical procedures. That’s due in part to Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws that are in place. Clinics in the state have to meet specifications comparable to those of “mini-hospitals” or ambulatory surgical centers, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just issued a ruling that allows a law to take effect that requires abortion providers to have medically unnecessary admitting privileges at a local hospital. Due to the ruling, only two of the four clinics in the state can now provide abortion care.

In these states—and so many others—“bad medicine” laws undermine safe, high-quality, patient- and family-centered health care. Women seeking abortion services deserve truthful information, quality care and treatment options that are appropriate for their individual circumstances. They should not face laws that force them to experience unnecessary delays or medical procedures, deny them safe and timely abortion options or force them to receive unnecessary and often inaccurate information. And health care providers should be able to focus on their obligations to their patients.

Read “Bad Medicine” to learn about restrictions in your state, and then urge your local lawmakers to take politics out of the exam room.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sandor Weisz licensed under Creative Commons 2.0


Sarah Lipton-Lubet is the director of reproductive health programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families.