Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to sign into law a bill that may close at least three out of the state’s five abortion clinics.
The law would require admitting privileges for abortion providers at a hospital within 30 miles, a requirement that doctors elsewhere, many of whom fly in from out of state to provide services, have often been unable to meet. That’s the point.
Both Louisiana clinics whose doctors have admitting privileges are in Shreveport, which is about a five-hour drive from New Orleans. In several other states, abortion providers have been denied such privileges by hospitals that either oppose abortion or are shying away from controversy – in some cases, the doctors haven’t even been given applications.
Bethany Van Kampen, board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, which assists low-income women who cannot afford their procedures, said in a statement that “Louisiana legislators have allowed ideology to trump medicine."
"This bill does not protect women; it is a back-door abortion ban," Kampen said.
To Louisiana’s west, in Texas, a similar law has already shuttered one-third of the clinics, with more expected to close this fall. To its east, the only thing keeping the last clinic in Mississippi open is a court order blocking another admitting privileges law. And Alabama’s version, which would leave only two clinics open in the state, is currently on trial in a district court in Montgomery. Yet another admitting privileges bill is on its way to the governor’s desk in nearby Oklahoma.
The clinics would not be shutting for lack of demand. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011, women in those five contiguous states – Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma – had a total of 103,040 legal abortions.
Nor are they closing because they pose a demonstrated risk to women. The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose the admitting privileges laws. And as Dr. Paul Fine, medical director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which includes centers in Texas and Louisiana, testified in the Alabama trial this week, abortion is "extremely safe. It's safer than getting a shot of penicillin."
"The risk of death from live childbirth is about 8.8 per 100,000," Fine added, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. "The risk of death from abortion is about six per one million. The risk of death from childbirth is about 14 times high than that of abortion."
Louisiana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. It also severely restricts sexual education in schools.
Unable to ban abortion outright until Roe v. Wade is fully overturned, southern legislators have resorted to admitting privileges laws that simply cut off the supply of safe and legal providers.