Punishing Women for Abortion Isn’t New. Just Look at the Hardships Utah Women Bear Under the State's Forced 72-Hour Wait
By Miriam Berg | April 8, 2016, 11:37 a.m.
Category: Abortion Access, State Attacks
The backlash against Donald Trump for recommending “punishment” against women who seek abortion continued after he walked it back — for good reason.
We at Planned Parenthood Action Fund are all about putting Trump in his place, but the backlash against the concept of punishing abortion-seeking women is incomplete without acknowledging two points:
First, that ALL the Republican candidates for president want to outlaw abortion — and second, that politicians have already been punishing women for years.
Take Utah, for example.
“This is what we at Planned Parenthood know to be true: when a woman decides to end a pregnancy, she has made a carefully considered decision — a decision in which politicians have no business to interfere.”
—Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
In 2012 Utah passed a law mandating at least a 72-hour waiting period between a woman’s consultation visit and her abortion procedure. It’s now proven that the three-day-minimum waiting period has increased hardship for women, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, in the journal Perspectives of Sexual and Reproductive Health.
This study found that, too often, a woman in need of an abortion in Utah must scramble to find more money for the procedure, make additional travel and childcare arrangements, and then wait for days — in most cases, more than a week — to end a pregnancy.
Existing Punishments: Increased Costs, Burdens, and Anxiety
The study found that, under the forced waiting period, Utah’s abortion procedures have been pushed later into pregnancy (note: while legal abortion is very safe, it is safer the earlier it is provided).
The also study found that patients have incurred additional costs and more stress because of the forced waiting period. That’s despite efforts by abortion providers in Utah, including Planned Parenthood, to mitigate the impact of the law on a woman’s ability to access a safe, legal abortion.
“As a leading health care provider to more than 46,000 people throughout Utah, these findings are deeply concerning — but unfortunately they aren’t surprising. We see what this law puts our patients through every single day.”
—Karrie Galloway, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.
When the law passed, the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah expanded its hours and added staff to make sure that patients could get the care they needed. But the new study demonstrates that the law is still having very real, negative effects on women in Utah.
The researchers found that the additional costs of abortion as a result of the forced wait represent a significant proportion of patients’ monthly income.
In fact, one-quarter of women in the survey spent more than 5% of their monthly income on the separate information visit that is required to take place at least 72-hours prior to the woman’s abortion.
Logistics and costs accounted for almost all of what respondents cited as the top-10 hardest parts of having to make two office visits for an abortion.
Having to miss work was most commonly cited (by 22% of respondents) as being among the hardest parts of two office visits.
Women also mentioned difficulties with: the time required; scheduling; and travel (including logistics, cost, distance, and the need to arrange for other people to travel with them).
Another significant finding of the paper is the degree to which “72-hour” waiting periods actually push abortion later into a woman’s pregnancy. Though mandated at 72 hours, the waiting period actually turned into more than a week in many cases.
On average, eight days elapsed between the information visit and the abortion. Importantly, the logistical challenges associated with the 72-hour waiting period meant that some women (6%) had to disclose their abortion to bosses, co-workers and other individuals that they otherwise wouldn’t want to involve in their decision.
The wait potentially contributed to women not being able to have a medication abortion, which can only be administered early in pregnancy.
In addition to financial hardship and delaying the procedure, women in the study spoke frankly about the emotional effects of the state-mandated 72-hour delay.
The researchers characterized these feelings as,
“[the women] knowing what they wanted to do, but feeling that they could not move on until they had the abortion,” and a “frustration at being powerless to implement their decision.”
Other States With Mandated 72-Hour Waits for Abortion
We at Planned Parenthood Action Fund would have liked to see Utah’s elected officials find ways to increase access to care... but, this session, we’ve just seen repeated attempts to interfere in women’s private medical decisions. And it’s the same story in other states.
Disregarding the vocal opposition of women’s health care providers and advocates, in recent years South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma and North Carolina have joined Utah in enacting laws mandating a 72-hour waiting period between a woman’s initial informational visit and the abortion procedure.
South Dakota’s 72-hour mandatory delay was famously amended in 2013 to exclude weekends and holidays from the 72-hour calculation.
Today, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and other Louisiana-based women’s health advocates are fighting a proposal that would triple the state’s mandatory delay to 72-hours.
Take Action: Stop the Gynoticians
Utah’s forced waiting period is a thinly veiled attempt at making a safe and legal abortion more difficult to get, and it is unacceptable. But it’s just one example of how states are continually punishing women who seek out safe, legal abortion.
Do you agree that punishing, shaming laws like these must be stopped? Are you angry at the politicians trying to interfere in women’s private health care decisions?
Tags: Abortion, State Fights, Donald Trump, Election 2016, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Waiting Period, Utah