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FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Abortion doctors restrictions take root in South

By
From page A6 | May 29, 2014 |

JACKSON, Miss. — From Texas to Alabama, laws are being enacted that would greatly restrict access to abortion, forcing many women to travel hundreds of miles to find a clinic. The laws, requiring abortion doctors to have privileges to admit patients to local hospitals, could have a profound impact on women in poor and rural sections of the Bible Belt.

In many places in the South, clinic doctors come from out of state to perform abortions and don’t have ties to a local hospital. Critics say the laws mean hospitals, leery of attracting anti-abortion protesters, could get veto power over whether the already-scarce clinics remain in business. They say the real aim is to outlaw abortions while supporters say they are protecting women’s health.

The laws are the latest among dozens of restrictions on abortions that states have enacted in the past two decades, including 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent and ultrasound requirements.

“You’re looking at huge swaths of the country where women’s options are becoming severely limited,” said Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

The requirements are already in effect in Texas and Tennessee. Laws in Mississippi and Alabama are on hold during court challenges. Louisiana and Oklahoma are about to enact their laws, which would bring the total to 10 states. If the law there is upheld, Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic would have to close, meaning women in some parts of the state would have to travel at least three hours to an out-of-state clinic.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant bluntly gave one reason for signing that law in 2012: “…we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights says besides the South, other states with the laws are in the Midwest or the West — Kansas, North Dakota, Utah and in Wisconsin, where it is being challenged in court this week.

After judges allowed Texas’ privileges law to take effect earlier this year, 19 of 33 abortion clinics closed.

If Mississippi’s lone clinic would shut its doors, one option would be to drive about three hours from Jackson to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or about three and a half hours from Jackson to Bossier City, Louisiana. A less likely option for a small number of women would be to find a Mississippi doctor who performs 10 or fewer abortions a month. If the doctor performs more, the practice is considered an abortion clinic under the law.

Supporters say admitting privileges protect women in case they hemorrhage, have cervical injuries or infection or other problems during an abortion.

Denise Burke is vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life, one of the main anti-abortion groups lobbying state legislatures to enact such laws.

“An admitting privileges requirement is an obvious and medically appropriate regulation of the abortion providers,” Burke said.

Allen counters that the privileges are “absolutely not medically necessary” and that they are aimed at shutting down clinics and to severely restrict access to a legal medical procedure.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion, in a February report said first-trimester abortions carry “minimal risk,” with less than 0.05 percent — 1 in every 2,000 cases — involving “major complications that might need hospital care.” The report also said 89 percent of abortions in the U.S. are done within those first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.

And if there were complications, hospitals would still accept and treat a patient even if her doctor can’t sign her in, opponents of the law say.

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalizes abortions nationwide. It gave states the option to regulate abortions before fetuses are viable. But it came with the caveat that states may not place undue burdens on or create substantial obstacles to women seeking abortions.

Court challenges are arguing that admitting privileges laws create just such burdens.

Religious-affiliated hospitals might ignore or reject applications from abortion providers, and some won’t grant privileges to out-of-state physicians. Both obstacles were encountered by the traveling doctors who work at Mississippi’s clinic.

In Alabama, operators of three of five abortion clinics testified last week during a trial challenging the law that they use out-of-town doctors who wouldn’t be able to admit patients to local hospitals. They said they’d have to close. That would leave clinics in two cities, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, which use local doctors, according to the state attorney general’s office.

In Louisiana, opponents said the Louisiana law would close three of the state’s five abortion clinics, leaving two in the northwest corner of the state — one in Shreveport and one in Bossier City. That creates a five-hour, one-way drive for women who live in the southeastern end of the state.

At Mississippi’s clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, protesters on several days a month stand outside to pray, sing hymns and hold posters with photos of aborted fetuses. Escorts in fluorescent yellow vests walk patients from the parking lot to the clinic, often as music blares from a boom box to drown out the protesters’ voices.

Laurie Bertram Roberts has volunteered as an escort and said if facilities close, women would likely try to end their own pregnancies in potentially dangerous ways.

“Desperate people do desperate things,” said Roberts, president of the Mississippi chapter of National Organization for Women.

Ashley Sigrest is at the clinic every few weeks to persuade women not to end their pregnancies because she regrets the abortion she had in August 1998. Sigrest said she supports admitting privileges laws because she believes they protect women’s health.

“The abortion doctors are flying from out of state and so they’re not being held responsible for harming these women,” Sigrest said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 26 comments

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  • PornacMay 29, 2014 - 6:54 am

    God will judge all who kill babies. A woman's duty is to make babies!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMay 29, 2014 - 9:13 am

    This is your Conservative leadership at work across the country. Several states are tossing Women's, minorities and gay citizens equal rights out the window. No big deal really. Until you talk about the same effort towards guns. Wipe that chaw off yer bibs, NOW we're gonna git angry! ;)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Teach5thMay 29, 2014 - 10:14 am

    CD - I know how you feel about the Arizona situation with gays; you've made that abundantly clear. What rights are we taking away from minorities? If you want to talk about rights, how about the right to life? It's in the Declaration of Independence because our founding fathers thought it was common sense. Apparently, not to you, though, since you seem to think it's a woman's right to kill a defenseless little baby.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMay 29, 2014 - 10:29 am

    Teach5th, you still here? You usually run off before I can respond. Yeah instead of chastising me for calling out AZ and the other states, maybe you should be concerned about THEIR rights! What do think "religious freedom" means T5? Can you be that naïve? But of course you wouldn't call it that. Should a woman be forced to carry to term a baby conceived by rape or incest? How could anyone justify that? I believe a woman should have the option, period. I place no legal moral or religious value on that decision. It is just a decision for whatever reason, not my business.

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  • CD BrooksMay 29, 2014 - 10:32 am

    Oops, moderated. Let’s try this…Teach5th, you still here? You usually run off before I can respond. Yeah instead of chastising me for calling out AZ and the other states, maybe you should be concerned about THEIR rights! What do think "religious freedom" means T5? Can you be that naïve? But of course you wouldn't call it that. Should a woman be forced to carry to term a baby conceived by r*pe or incest? How could anyone justify that? I believe a woman should have the option, period. I place no legal moral or religious value on that decision. It is just a decision for whatever reason, not my business

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMay 29, 2014 - 10:47 am

    Apologies for duplicate comments. Clearly patience is not one of my virtues...

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  • Teach5thMay 29, 2014 - 12:36 pm

    CD - Yeah, I'm still here. I may appear to "run off" but some of us still have to work. I wasn't chastising you for your views about Arizona. I merely said that I know what your point of view is since you've written about it so many times. Now, I'm not sure what your question means re: religious freedom. I think you can worship God, or a mailbox, or nothing. That's your choice. I happen to strongly believe in God. I also have a belief that a baby is a baby is a baby. It's a life and no one has a right to deny it the right to life no matter how it got started. Now, I know you don't believe in God, and I have written about how that lack of belief insinuates itself into your thinking about any number of issues. It's pointless to carry on a discussion re: abortion, gay rights, etc. You think any conservative with ideas like mine is naive/wrongheaded. So be it... Now, I have to get back to work.

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  • CD BrooksMay 29, 2014 - 4:04 pm

    Teach5th, I give you the business about running off because you say you never keep track of these comments. Then you deny ever having seen them and continue with your REPEATING THE SAME THING. And I have been forced to repeat the messages over and over again the first second and third time because of folk that refuse to accept the truth. When I said religious freedom I was asking you to think about the abuse involved within that practice. "Oh we don't serve gay people, black people, Catholics and pregnant women." That is precisely what you would expect with a ridiculous archaic law like that. If you don’t believe that then you obviously support it and are part of the problem. My beliefs are not important but yours should be. I don’t profess to support any entity therefore I live a very good life and make great decisions. The hypocrisy involved with hateful religious people is pathetic and unforgiveable. Not sure how you reconcile that?

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  • CD BrooksMay 30, 2014 - 12:15 pm

    Teach5th???

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  • CD BrooksMay 30, 2014 - 12:19 pm

    Teach5th, okay let's try this... one more thing and so many of you are guilty of this. You're cherry picking and basing your arguments (such as they are) on particular elements within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. You are actually arguing one against another in support of your agenda and denying everyone you don’t agree with their rights. You’re both morally and ethically challenged because you cannot have it both ways. So keep in mind that if you are going to challenge folks here, you need to have facts and you do not. If you have no argument other than your faith in a god then you have no argument at all.

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  • Jason KnowlesMay 29, 2014 - 10:33 am

    Uh, not to get technical here "Teach," but the Declaration of Independence was not a legal document. It was propaganda. Secondly, since almost half of all zygotes are terminated naturally, the god whom you hold so dear is the number one abortionist of all time. Have a nice day.

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  • rlw895May 29, 2014 - 10:38 am

    Good point. It's the Constitution that governs these questions, not the Declaration.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BalancerMay 29, 2014 - 11:52 am

    Mr. Knowles, your dismissal of the Declaration of Independence as being mere "propaganda" tells us more about you and your love for this country than you probably intended. And don't try to weasel out of it: you said it.

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  • Jason KnowlesMay 29, 2014 - 1:10 pm

    Balancer, it has nothing to do with my love for this country. It is a fact. I have said it before on this site. The Declaration of Independence was written to get other European nations like France and Spain to join against England (which they were happy to do in order to stay competitive in terms of empire building). If you actually read it, Jefferson used emotional language and name-calling to make his points. I'm sorry your flag-waving blind patriotism prevents you from seeing it for what it is, but it was not, as "Teach" 5th implied, a legally binding document in any way that would prevent (or grant) a woman access to an abortion.

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  • BalancerMay 29, 2014 - 4:10 pm

    Then let's put it this way: your choice of words is deplorable. If it takes you as many words as you used to answer then maybe your original wording was misleading, at best. And your condescending,snide remark "I'm sorry your flag-waving blind patriotism prevents you from seeing it for what it is..." is just more proof that you are an intellectual midget masquerading as a deep thinker.

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  • Teach5thMay 29, 2014 - 12:44 pm

    Jason - What, in your viewpoint, is a "legal" document? The Declaration of Independence was written by lawyers spelling out the reasons why they felt we should become free and independent of England. Trusts and wills are also written by lawyers. The only thing that separates them from a document like the Declaration is that sometimes they are used/filed with courts. Also, to the point that the Constitution governs these questions - not really. It's the interpretation of the Constitution by courts that govern these points, and sometimes those interpretations have proven to be wrongheaded. It's back to work now.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jason KnowlesMay 29, 2014 - 1:53 pm

    So, "Teach" because lawyers wrote them, that makes it a legally binding document? The D of I predates our Constitution by 11 years!!! They were attempting to justify rebellion (illegal in the eyes of England) against their government. Your fundamental lack of knowledge about some basic components of history is astounding. And "Balancer" my view of the D of I as propaganda is not a pejorative one, merely an interpretation.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Danny BuntinMay 29, 2014 - 2:53 pm

    Jason is 100% right about the DOI.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BalancerMay 29, 2014 - 4:14 pm

    Danny, you mean it is just a piece of propaganda? Hoo boy, it's getting deep around here.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarMay 29, 2014 - 5:07 pm

    The Declaration of Independence is an historical document. The purpose was, as has been mentioned, and also stated pretty clearly in the words "declaration" and "independence". The Constitution, also am historical document, has a different purpose. Our laws should be "constitutional" rather than "unconstitutional". The Declaration is much more emotive and visceral, kind of a what it feels/means to be an American, for some of us. Calling it propaganda, a useful declaratory "tool" if you will, isn't inaccurate. Nor does it insult the mighty historically-significant document. But it doesn't lend itself too well to being a "measure" or "reflective surface" for our laws.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Danny BuntinMay 29, 2014 - 8:17 pm

    @Balancer: You are very passionate about the DOI. That was its intention. Definition of Propaganda: Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of a population toward some cause or position.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895May 29, 2014 - 10:37 am

    "The real aim is to outlaw abortions while supporters say they are protecting women’s health." That about sums it up. Supporters HAVE to say that, and be able to prove it, for these laws be legal. It's specious argument, but does it sound familiar? Similar arguments are made for "voter protection" laws that actually disenfranchise groups that are largely Democrats.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BalancerMay 29, 2014 - 11:49 am

    Dear rlw895: Please cite some "'voter protection' laws that actually disenfranchise groups that are largely Democrats." Recent laws, that is. We all know many laws before 1964 were bad, but how about now?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarMay 29, 2014 - 5:14 pm

    In all likelihood more women, and girls will die attempting to receive unsafe abortions. Helping people in bad situations so they can carry to term would be positive. But forcing that decision on them, forcing them to give birth is wrong. Better to offer support to the person carrying the unborn, whether she chooses to carry to term or not then force her to carry to term as the solution without knowing her, and her particular circumstances.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • NitPickerMay 29, 2014 - 7:18 pm

    if the "h" is aspirated, as in "history" the correct preceding article is "a" not "an", as long as we are being picky.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarMay 29, 2014 - 7:26 pm

    Well not when I'm using my fake English accent.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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