Women’s health suffers under clinic closures

Kathryne LeBell, Views Editor

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

One of the two abortion clinics in the New Orleans area closed down for unclear reasons on Feb. 17. This preceded a Feb. 18 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals allowing Louisiana to enforce a law requiring clinic physicians to have hospital admitting privileges at a facility within 30 miles of the clinic. Meeting this requirement is almost impossible for most physicians, especially in rural areas, and will likely result in the closing of three out of the four remaining abortion clinics in Louisiana. This law and the emergency allowance of its enforcement — despite federal resistance for the past two years — is dirty dealing. Hospital admittance has nothing to do with the safety and quality of abortion care. Shutting down these clinics does nothing but harm women in need of care.

Hospital admittance privileges refer to the ability of a physician to admit a patient to that hospital without permission from some other doctor. It makes that physician equal to any other staff member of the hospital. It sounds like a way to prevent malpractice or poor healthcare, but in reality hospitals tend not to give those privileges to doctors who perform abortions, in the interest of keeping out of tense and volatile abortion politics. This, as well as the 30 mile rule, is a well-disguised way to shut down almost every abortion clinic that falls under the law.

Louisiana abortion policy is already draconian relative to the rest of the country. Women must receive state-directed counseling 24 hours before the operation, actively discouraging them from proceeding. The physician must take an ultrasound beforehand, pointing out and explicitly describing it to the woman. Furthermore, the only case in which an abortion may be performed after the 22-week period is if it is believed the “fetus is in pain,” according to the 2012 Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Abortions are already not easily accessed in Louisiana — with the closing of the majority of the clinics, it will become a huge challenge for women to receive this operation (regardless of risk to their health or cases of sexual assault). Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup spoke on the matter.

“Today’s ruling thrusts Louisiana into a reproductive health care crisis, where women will face limited safe and legal options when they’ve made the decision to end a pregnancy,” Northup said. “Whether in Louisiana, Texas or elsewhere, women should not be forced to run to court year after year to protect their fundamental rights.”

Unintended pregnancy in Louisiana is a huge problem due to poor sex education and family planning resources. Planned Parenthood clinics, regardless of the provision of abortion services, are one of the few places that provide these resources. With funding cuts, Louisiana women have even less access to these services, making unplanned pregnancies an even larger issue.

In 2010, 60 percent of all Louisiana pregnancies were unplanned, according to the Guttmacher Institute. This percentage is estimated to remain about the same. In 2011, 71 percent of Louisiana pregnancies resulted in live birth, while only 14 percent resulted in abortions. Both of these numbers paint a picture: women in Louisiana aren’t using abortion as birth control. It is more likely than not that most of these cases had some significant medical reason or were performed very early in the pregnancy.

Next week, the CRR will take the case to the Supreme Court. If it is struck down at the highest federal level, Louisiana will no longer be able to enforce the law. But unless the emergency appeal passes within the next month, Louisiana’s clinics will close. This leaves the closest clinic for many people out of the state, in Jackson, Mississippi.

Women’s reproductive rights have been attacked for years, but abortion clinics are facing an increased rate of closure. This loss of access to health clinics specializing in women’s health is disastrous and incredibly harmful. The mysterious closure of Causeway Medical Clinic, so closely followed by a major law being enacted, leaves New Orleans women in a precarious place. Pro-abortion rights or anti-abortion, the Court of Appeals ruling is doing nothing but hurting Louisiana women.

Kathryne is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]