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New England Journal of Medicine Article Examines 'Supply-Side' Abortion Restrictions

New England Journal of Medicine Article Examines 'Supply-Side' Abortion Restrictions

October 20, 2011 — Abortion-rights opponents in several states have begun focusing on the "supply side" of abortion care -- targeting physicians, hospitals and clinics -- which could be an effective strategy for limiting access to the procedure, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, NPR's "Shots"/Kaiser Health News reports.

In the article, Theodore Joyce of the City University of New York and the National Bureau of Economic Research writes that "demand-side" abortion restrictions -- such as waiting periods and parental consent laws -- have not produced the drop in abortion rates that abortion-rights opponents desire. Arizona, Kansas, Utah and Virginia are among the states that have turned to supply-side measures, such as strict structural requirements for abortion clinics that could force providers out of business. Nationwide, only 14% of ob-gyns offer abortion care, according to "Shots"/KHN.

Joyce writes that the supply-side strategy has been particularly effective in Texas, where a law called the Woman's Right to Know Act took effect in January 2004. The law includes demand-side restrictions that require women seeking abortion services before 16 weeks of pregnancy to receive certain information at least 24 hours before the procedure. After 16 weeks, the law includes supply-side restrictions requiring that abortions be performed in hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers that meet certain staffing, reporting and structural requirements.

As a result, the number of abortions performed at or after 16 weeks decreased from 3,642 statewide in 2003 to 446 in 2004, while the average distance to a non-hospital abortion provider increased from 33 miles to 252 miles during the same time frame, according to Joyce (Gold, "Shots"/Kaiser Health News, 10/19).