September 3, 2013 — At least 54 abortion clinics across 27 states have closed over the past three years -- in many cases because of state laws that target abortion providers, according to a Huffington Post survey of state health departments, abortion clinics and advocacy groups. In some other states, clinics have remained open only because courts have blocked laws threatening their closure.
According to the Huffington Post, while states restricted abortion "long before 2010," they only recently started enacting laws specifically designed to make it more difficult for abortion providers to operate. The laws -- known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws -- often require abortion clinics to undergo costly upgrades to meet certain standards, such as being certified as ambulatory surgical centers. Other TRAP laws require clinics to have affiliations with hospitals or to widen hallways, install certain ventilation systems or build locker rooms for physicians.
Proponents of the laws claim the regulations increase safety for women, while abortion-rights supporters say the measures are really designed to limit abortion access by closing clinics that cannot meet the requirements.
According to the survey, only two states -- Nebraska and Massachusetts -- have added a clinic since 2010. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia could not provide an accurate count of their clinics because their health departments do not distinguish between abortion providers and other medical providers. However, the survey found that few of those 21 states have passed new antiabortion-rights legislation since 2010. The survey did not include information on abortions at hospitals.
According to a separate survey conducted by the Daily Beast, there were 724 operational abortion clinics in the U.S. as of this January.
The Huffington Post survey found that states where the most clinics have closed also enacted the most abortion restrictions over the past three years. For example, nine clinics closed in Texas, and 12 of 18 Arizona's clinics closed.
Kat Sabine, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona, said, "The kind of efforts the women have to take to get family planning or abortion services are just incredible, and you can only get care if you can get out of the community to do it. If you're on a reservation or rural part of the state, unless you have reliable transportation, you're not going to get care."
Compounding the problem, 26 states require women to wait at least 24 hours between when they initially seek abortion care and when they obtain the procedure.
Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said, "Women who have resources, have a car, have some money in the bank, can access childcare and take time off work can obtain an abortion, and women who are less well-off and don't have those kinds of resources are not able to access abortion services."
Nash said abortion restrictions "do nothing to reduce the need for abortion or reduce unintended pregnancy," adding that supporters of the restrictions "have as an end goal the elimination of legal abortion."
However, Kristi Hamrick -- spokesperson for Americans United for Life -- claimed the new restrictions are not shutting down the clinics. She said, "It was [abortion providers'] choice to ignore the laws of any given state on building requirements for outpatient medical facilities -- set by that state in line with a national standards board, not AUL -- and choose locations that were not as safe" (Bassett, Huffington Post, 8/26).