Abortion rights are under attack across the country: Last year alone, the Guttmacher Institute has found that 70 abortion restriction measures were enacted in 22 states. Some of the gravest threats to reproductive freedom are coming from Arizona, where state legislators have imposed a 24-hour waiting period, mandatory ultrasound and often-misleading counseling – all policies that many reproductive health experts believe are both unneeded and oppressive – along with medically unnecessary restrictions on where abortion services may be provided.
Many of these stringent measures come from the Center for Arizona Policy, a right-wing lobbying group whose influence over Arizona's Republicans has been noted by The New York Times. This year, Arizona has taken two CAP bills all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In January, the Court refused to revisit a lower court ruling that blocked Arizona's 2012 ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The Court has also declined to review a lower court ruling against a bill that would have restricted Arizona women's access to preventive health care at Planned Parenthood. This month, meanwhile, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay blocking Arizona's new regulations on medication abortion.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne had asked the appeals court to lift the stay because, he claimed, Planned Parenthood did not have sufficient evidence to show the restrictions were harmful. The panel rejected this argument, blocking the new rules at least through May 12th, when it will hear arguments in the case. But the Center for Arizona Policy continues to pose a threat, and Arizona women still face numerous barriers to abortion services. Here are five ways Arizona's abortion restrictions are hurting women:
1. More Illegal Abortions
Janet Crepps, senior counsel in the Center for Reproductive Rights' U.S. Legal Program, says there's already been an uptick in Arizona women resorting to buying abortion medication from across the border – harkening back to the days in which women of means were able to access abortion care while poor and vulnerable women were forced to carry out unwanted pregnancies or resort to unsafe methods. "This is an unacceptable state of healthcare," Crepps says. If Arizona continues along the same path as Texas – a state that has shut down many abortion facilities – many more women will turn to abortion pills in flea markets and Mexican pharmacies, or will attempt to self-induce. Abortion is incredibly common – studies show that about one in three American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45 – so the added regulations will only unnecessarily put many women's lives in danger.
2. More Unnecessary Medical Abortions
Under Arizona's medication abortion law, providers would be forced to administer the abortion pill in a way that is outdated and less efficient. Not only would they have to use a higher dosage (though medical professionals know that a lower dose is safer and cheaper), women would be prohibited from using the pill after their seventh week of pregnancy, despite the fact that medication abortion is typically administered up to nine weeks. According to Planned Parenthood Arizona, about 800 women would have had to get surgical abortions in 2012 if the restrictions had been in effect then. "Proponents talk about protecting women's health, but there is no rational basis," says Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona. "We'd have to roll back medical standards 14 years." Howard adds that this requirement will force women who are afraid of surgery or survivors of sexual assault, who may feel trauma due to the nature of the method, to undergo this unnecessary surgical procedure.
3. Shaming Women
A study from the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that 98.4 percent of the women who saw their ultrasounds decided to have an abortion anyway, so the ultrasound requirement has a negligible effect. The 24-hour waiting period is also intended primarily to change women's minds. These kinds of restrictions only serve to shame women about their choices. "This is to create the impression that women who are choosing to have an abortion aren't thinking through their decision," says Howard. "We find that most patients are incredibly well-informed." Howard also points out that these obstacles are not required for any other healthcare service.
4 and 5. Added Cost and Travel Burdens
Due to the 24-hour waiting period requirement, women already must make two trips to the abortion provider – one to book the procedure, and one to undergo it. If the medication abortion restriction passes, women will be required to take an additional trip to receive their second dose of their medication instead of taking it in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Howard says that if women have to take the second pill in the facility, they also risk having contractions in their car on their way home. "That just seems inhumane," he says. The added appointments also increase the overall cost for women: not only do they have to pay for the procedure and gas, many will also have to take several days off from work and make childcare arrangements. Howard notes that undocumented women are hit worst of all by the requirements, since many of them must pass check points multiple times in Arizona. Says Howard, "It's definitely forcing them to run a gauntlet."
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