These are the top threats we are fighting on the state level.
- Attacks on Planned Parenthood patients
- Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws
- Unconstitutional Abortion Bans
- Non-surgical Abortion Restrictions
- Biased Counseling, Mandatory Ultrasounds & Waiting Periods
- "Personhood" Amendments
In states around the country, anti-women's health legislators are trying to eliminate funding for family planning or block Planned Parenthood's participation in public health programs. While state attacks on Planned Parenthood patients vary, the outcome would be the same: women's ability to receive basic health care -— including cancer screenings, well-woman exams, and birth control — from their trusted health care provider would be severely undermined.
Go to our Planned Parenthood issue page to see the latest attacks on access to care at Planned Parenthood, and how women's health advocates are fighting back.
Reproductive health care services are among the safest and mostly commonly sought forms of care in the U.S. But that hasn't stopped the anti-women's health movement from dialing up efforts to eliminate access to abortion through the introduction of TRAP ("targeted restrictions of abortion providers") bills and regulations that place unreasonable requirements on health care centers. These onerous and medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers include requiring that hallways in a health center measure a certain width.
TRAP regulations have nothing to do with improving the health or safety of women, and everything to do with politics. The real goal of TRAP restrictions is simple: shutting down abortion providers when they are unable to comply.
In the landmark case Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman's right to make her own medical decisions, including her decision to have an abortion. Therefore, a state may not ban abortion prior to viability. In the 40 years following that landmark ruling, in decisions including Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court has never wavered from this principle. Yet extreme bans on abortion continue to arise in state legislatures, including bans on abortion at just six weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion bans are not only bad policy because they would prevent a woman from making her own personal, private decision about her health and medical care — but also because they clearly violate women's constitutional rights.
Women in the United States have been safely and legally using non-surgical abortion for years, but anti-women's health activists have devoted significant attention to creating barriers and restrictions to block access. Bills restricting non-surgical abortion are being considered in states ranging from North Carolina to Arkansas to Missouri and Mississippi. In states where these restrictions have been passed, some women have been forced to have a surgical procedure when they would have chosen non-surgical abortion instead.
Non-surgical abortion gives a woman the option of a more private and what may feel like a less invasive method of ending a pregnancy, in a setting in which she feels most comfortable. With a medical professional, she decides when the abortion starts, where it should happen, and who should be with her while it is happening. And she has access to medical professionals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if she has any questions or concerns. One in four women decide on this method, and if a woman follows the instructions provided, there are no risks to her future fertility. And medical studies have shown that non-surgical abortion is as safe and effective as a surgical abortion.
Out-of-touch politicians in states across the country have moved forward with a line of attacks that put politicians in the middle of the personal, private, medical decisions that should be left to a woman, her faith, and her family in consultation with her doctors. This line of attack makes a woman jump through demeaning and time-consuming hoops before she can obtain a safe, legal abortion. Some of these bills:
- Impose mandatory waiting periods of up to 72 hours prior to an abortion after a woman's initial consultation with her doctor.
- Require ultrasounds before women can get an abortion. This burdensome regulation is sometimes imposed even on victims of rape and incest. Some ultrasound mandates require physicians to force a woman to view the ultrasound, and deliver politically motivated statements to the woman, even if she declines to view or listen to them.
- Force doctors to provide state-mandated, ideological scripts to their patients.
- Require women to receive biased counseling from unlicensed, unaccredited, and unregulated "crisis pregnancy centers."
A woman should have accurate information about all her pregnancy options. Information should support a woman, help her make a decision for herself, and enable her to take care of her health and well-being. It should not be provided with the intent of shaming or coercing her.
An evaluation of Texas's 2011 biased counseling law found the law does not enhance health information, but rather places unnecessary hurdles before a woman seeking to make a private medical decision. The law has the compound effect of making a woman feel ashamed, and adds additional costs to a safe and legal procedure.
A number of other states are following Texas' lead and working to make accessing abortion even more difficult. When Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (the only provider of safe and legal abortions in the state of South Dakota) announced that they would begin implementation of a previously enacted 72-hour waiting period, the South Dakota state legislature passed a bill that exempts weekends and holidays from the 72 hours, which means that a woman could be forced to wait as long as 5 or 6 days for an abortion.
If enacted, so-called "personhood" measures could interfere with personal, private, medical decisions relating to decisions about birth control, access to fertility treatment, management of a miscarriage, and access to safe and legal abortion. These extreme and dangerous measures have been both rejected by voters and defeated in the courts, but that hasn't discouraged "personhood" proponents from introducing similar measures in a number of states.
Less than two years after Planned Parenthood and our allies defeated Mississippi's so-called "personhood" ballot initiative by a wide margin, state legislators in Mississippi have announced they're going to try to pass it again. The measure would give full constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, which could block some forms of birth control and fertility treatment.
In the 2014 midterm elections, North Dakota and Colorado voters rejected "personhood" ballot measures intended to eviscerate key protections built into the Affordable Care Act, including protections that ensure American women get adequate coverage for essential health services and coverage of preventive services without a co-pay. North Dakota voters have already spoken, but politicians in state legislatures across America are not heeding the message.
These are tough battles, but Planned Parenthood and our supporters are winning many of them. Just last year, Planned Parenthood helped defeat unconstitutional abortion bans in Colorado and Wyoming, mandatory ultrasound bills in Michigan and Tennessee, and anti-birth control bills in Virginia.