Since the original ruling more than 40 years ago, Americans consistently have opposed overturning Roe v. Wade. As a result, the strategy that abortion opponents turn to is restricting and eliminating safe and legal abortion access via technicality and needless regulation. And in several states, they’re finding success. One of the most popular tactics is called “admitted privileges.” It requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. In the last year, admitting privilege requirements have passed in several states, with two more (Oklahoma and Louisiana) poised to move in the next several weeks.
We all want to protect patient safety. But these bills don’t make patients safe. Providers already have plans in place in case of an emergency to ensure patient safety. These bills are intended to put up another obstacle before women who make the personal decision to have a safe and legal abortion, the result of which is fewer providers and less access.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association opposed these laws.
“There is no medical basis to require abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges.”
“Emergency room physicians, hospital-based physicians, and on-call specialists already provide prompt and effective treatment to all patients with urgent medical needs, including women with abortion-related complications… Unless there is a substantial public health justification, legislators should not interfere with patient care, medical decisions, and the patient-physician relationship.”
Think about it — these laws were written by politicians, not medical experts. They don’t make women safer. They don’t make the care better. They just make it harder for women’s health centers to stay open and provide women with safe and legal abortions.
To put the matter into perspective, "The mortality rate with a colonoscopy is 40 times greater, 40 times more likely to cause a complication than an abortion," said Dr. Jeanne Conry, a past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, on a conference call with reporters. "Gastroenterologists have no restrictions on their practice with that rate of safety."
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard arguments on Mississippi’s admitting privileges requirement. If upheld, the requirement could shutter the state’s only remaining abortion provider, whose physicians have been denied privileges at 13 hospitals.
Unfortunately, Mississippi is the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what other states are facing:
- A bill in Oklahoma — which the Oklahoma State Medical Association warns “would result in the Legislature and unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Health interfering in the physician/patient relationship and crafting more burdensome regulations that...may not reflect medical science or the best interest of the patient” — is nearing Governor Mary Fallin’s desk. If enacted, the legislation (Senate Bill 1848) could force two of the three health centers providing abortion in the state to stop doing so.
- A bill is poised to pass a second chamber in Louisiana despite an outpouring of opposition from people of all stripes including medical students from Tulane University.
In Alabama and Wisconsin, women are facing the same threat to their health and safety. Admitting privilege laws in these two states are blocked by the courts with trials starting this month:
- An admitting privileges restriction in Alabama that currently is blocked by the courts could force three of the five health centers statewide to stop providing safe and legal abortion. A trial in federal district court began this past Monday.
- In Wisconsin on May 27, 2014, a trial will be held regarding a similar restriction that could also severely restrict access to safe, legal abortion in the state.
If the courts do not step in and protect women, we could see an entire region of the nation with little or no access to safe abortion. The Southern states are already the poorest with the greatest need for health services. The women there deserve more access to health care, not less.