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OPINION

Abortion is Safe. Let's Keep it Safe.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU on why abortion restrictions, like requiring doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges, could leave many Alabama and Wisconsin women without safe and legal options.

Today, abortion is an extremely safe procedure with a safety record of over 99 percent. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are putting the pedal to the metal in states across the country to keep it this way.    

This month, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are working side by side in Alabama and Wisconsin to keep abortion restrictions from taking effect that could leave many women without a safe and legal option for the care they need. These states are attempting to enforce laws requiring doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. There is no medical basis for these restrictions, which is why they are strongly opposed by doctors and medical groups.  

Those who support these laws claim that they are necessary to protect patient safety.  Do not be fooled. The fact is, abortion providers have detailed plans in place to ensure patient safety, and health centers that provide abortions are subject to oversight from state and federal agencies. Instead of protecting women’s health, these laws have the opposite effect.  

They harm women’s health by forcing quality health care providers to close.  Not only women in need of an abortion but those requiring birth control, STI testing, and cancer screenings have been forced to travel far distances or do without.  

If these Texas-style laws are allowed to take effect, Wisconsin and Alabama will join other states that teeter on the verge of having to eliminate health centers providing safe and legal abortion — Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas. Oklahoma and Louisiana could join the ranks too if the legislation passes.  As a result, the United States is poised to become a country in which a woman’s ability to make the private and personal medical decision best for herself and her family is dependent upon where she happens to live.  That’s not supposed to happen in this country.  

The real purpose of laws like these is to make it impossible for a woman to get an abortion, no matter what difficult circumstances she may be facing.   In Texas, where similar laws have taken effect, the number of providers of safe and legal abortion has been reduced – and drastically so in regions where access to health care is already extremely limited. Sadly, it’s the folks with the greatest need for health care, like low-income women, who are the most affected by the draconian laws that force health centers to shut down.  

Some proponents of these restrictions admit their true intent. An Alabama state Representative said that Alabama’s legislation was intended “to shut down these [abortion] clinics." Governor Rick Perry jammed these restrictions through the Texas legislature, saying that part of his goal was to make abortion “a thing of the past.”  Similarly, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant likewise acknowledged his goal to “make Mississippi abortion-free” when signing a similar law.    

While these politicians are busy posturing, it’s women who will pay the price.  

If allowed to take effect, the Alabama law would leave only two health centers in the entire state that can provide safe and legal abortion to women.  In Wisconsin, more than 330,000 women are in need of affordable contraceptive services and supplies. Funding from Planned Parenthood health centers was recently cut, leaving thousands of rural women without local, basic ob-gyn care. This law adds insult to injury. It would reduce access and increase wait times for women who already have too few options for reproductive care in their state. That’s why these policies harm women’s health rather than improve it.

It is doctors, not politicians, who are best suited to create medical regulations that meet the needs of American women.  We are fighting on all fronts to leave medical matters to those who know about medicine.

 Cecile Richards is President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Louise Melling is Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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