On Sept. 1, a new Louisiana law could severely restrict a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion by requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
This medically unnecessary law could force health centers to close posing a serious risk to women’s health. For instance, a woman in southern Louisiana could be forced to drive 300 miles, one way, to the Shreveport area to access safe and legal abortion care.
What is happening in Louisiana is part of a dangerous national trend. With these same restrictions enacted in neighboring states, the United States is becoming a country where a woman’s ability to make personal medical decisions without interference from politicians will be dependent upon where she happens to live. That cannot be what the U.S. Supreme Court intended when it established a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion more than 40 years ago.
We all want to ensure women have access to safe medical care. These laws don’t do that — which is why leading medical experts such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose them.
Data, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. Other outpatient procedures are not subject to the same level of regulation, even if they have higher rates of complication. For patients’ safety, providers already have plans in place in case of an emergency.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals ruled that Mississippi could not use a similar law to completely block women’s access to safe, legal abortion in that state.
If the law in Mississippi was allowed to take effect, access to safe and legal abortion there would have been completely eliminated, and women who already struggle to access health care would have to travel out of state, forcing abortion later in pregnancy, if a woman can have one at all.
This week’s ruling is not only a victory for women in Mississippi but for women across the region, as similar laws threaten to decimate access to safe, legal abortion in the South. For example, if this law went into effect in Mississippi, a woman in Jackson could be forced to make a 350-mile round trip to the next-closest provider in Baton Rouge, which, on Sept. 1 may not even be open.
That’s why we fought this bill in the Legislature and why we’ll continue to do everything we can to protect Louisiana women’s access to health care.
Regardless of what happens in the courts, Planned Parenthood will continue to be here for our patients, who rely on us for cancer screenings, STD tests, birth control and other essential health care.
Melissa S. Flournoy
Louisiana state director,
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast