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Abortion Clinics Struggle To Adapt Under Wave of State Regulations

Abortion Clinics Struggle To Adapt Under Wave of State Regulations

January 18, 2013 — Abortion clinics are struggling to adapt to an onslaught of new state regulations aiming to reduce access to the procedure, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Although Roe v. Wade bars laws outlawing abortion, lawmakers opposing abortion rights have made significant headway in reducing access by targeting providers at the state level. By 2008, the number of abortion providers nationwide totaled 1,793, a 38% decline from a peak in 1982. In recent years, laws that regulate abortion clinics as surgical outpatient centers and that require providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals have threatened to shutter multiple clinics in Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In December 2012, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation (HB 5711) that imposes several new restrictions on abortion rights. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the most threatening aspect is the requirement that clinics adhere to hospital-like standards, which specify a number of requirements including the square footage of recovery rooms, corridor widths and number of bathrooms per patient. Renée Chelian, who owns Northland Family Planning near Detroit, said her clinic would need renovations costing more than $1 million to comply.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, independent abortion clinics -- which provide the majority of abortions in the U.S. -- like Northland are the most vulnerable to the regulations because they lack substantial financial resources. Many of the 26 independent clinics that closed in recent years said they had been forced out of business or had to merge with Planned Parenthood, while 19 others say they are in "serious trouble," according to an informal survey.

Supporters of the laws say that the regulations are meant to protect the health and safety of women. However, federal data show that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, 14 times safer for a woman than carrying a pregnancy to term. Further, abortion-rights advocates say new laws targeting providers really are meant to increase costs and force abortion providers out of business.

David Grimes, former chief of abortion surveillance at CDC and a leading researcher and abortion provider, said, "These kinds of regulations do nothing to advance women's health," adding, "All they do is drive up the cost of care and cause women to delay, which drives up the risks" (Deprez, Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/17).