In response to public outcry, the state of Louisiana has pushed the hearing regarding its TRAP (Target Regulations of Abortion Providers) laws; originally scheduled for Wednesday, January 29 at 9: AM, the hearings were moved to February 4. As part of what advocates are calling a “back door abortion ban,” new regulations – which were quietly passed, with no public debate – serve as a means to end access to abortion without explicitly outlawing it. If these laws continue to be in place it will force ALL five clinics in Louisiana to close.
This is problem for all women, not just those seeking an abortion. Women will not have access to many other kinds of health care and will be forced to travel to other states or go without healthcare all together. The Louisiana government and these TRAP laws are making it impossible for these clinics to do what they are meant to do-help improve women’s health care!
Across the nation, TRAP laws are used to close abortion clinics by imposing erroneous regulations and requirements on them. In this instance, some regulations include:
- Each clinic who is applying for a new license must submit a “certificate of need” to the State proving the need for their services. In many other circumstances, such as any change to the location or the ownership of an existing clinic, existing clinics must apply for a brand-new license and (re-)satisfy the certificate of need requirement. The subjective nature of these requirements allows the State to severely restrict new licenses and will provide the State with a mechanism for refusing to allow existing clinics to renew their licenses to operate.
- There is no right to appeal deficiencies to any unbiased body outside of the Department of Health and Hospitals. Therefore, every deficiency that a clinic is cited with will be allowed to stand, and those deficiencies are often later used to revoke a clinic’s license on the basis of being a “repeat” offender.
- The new regulations require that all facilities have very specific square footage requirements that are far larger than any currently operating abortion facility. They would be prohibitively expensive to construct, and the requirements have no medical necessity. If the regulations are allowed to go into effect, no clinic will be in compliance on the day the regulations are implemented, and the State will have the ability to shut down every existing abortion clinic in the State.
The original regulations also included a mandatory 30-day waiting period, which would have put many women for being at risk of violation of the 20-week limit already in place in Louisiana. (Note: the 20 week ban has already been struck down elsewhere, but is still in place in Louisiana.) Public outcry resulted in the Louisiana Dept of Health and Hospitals rescinding that particular provision, and advocacy groups are encouraging people to continue to write letters and put pressure on officials to eliminate the rules altogether.
By the age of 45, almost half of American women will have an unplanned pregnancy and nearly 1 in 3 women will have an abortion. Most women have their abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy about 88%. Abortions affect 69% of women who are low-income. Many of the women who choose to have an abortion have children and are religious. There have been studies conducted of women who wanted to have an abortion but were unable to or turned away these women had: higher rates of hypertension and chronic pelvic pain, three times more likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later, and finally there was no evidence found between higher rates of depression or other mental health problems when obtaining an abortion.
If TRAP laws succeed, as many as all the clinics currently operating in Louisiana would be forced to shut their doors, and thanks to the vagueness of the “needs assessment” required to establish a new clinic, it seems unlikely that clinics offering sexual and reproductive health services would be able to open in the state. Even if some clinics stay open, even losing a few will result in more women having to expend additional time and money in order to access this basic care. On top of that, the 20-week limit creates additional problems: If a women does not make this deadline and are refused an abortion this forces them to travel outside of state, again making the cost of travel, time off and in some cases childcare more expensive. Not to mention the bans on state funded abortion services and insurance coverage make it an extra cost to actually pay for the abortion or health care services.
We need to take action! Here’s how.
- For those who can come and give their support to this very important cause, there are talking points provided online, and you can come out to the hearing on February 4 wearing purple. The hearing will be at the Bienville Building Room, 118 628 North 4th Street in Baton Rouge.
- You can also email letters to officials via [email protected] (e-mail these letters by February 3 at 8:00pm CST and they will be able to hand deliver the letters at the hearing), or mail letters to J. Ruth Kennedy, Bureau of Health Services Financing, P. O. Box 91030, Baton Rouge, LA 70831-9030. Here’s a template!