Admitting Privilege Laws Cause Problems For Abortion Rights

gavelImagine for a moment that you are a pregnant single woman without friends or family and very little money.  For many women, this is a harsh reality.  If a woman is barely able to take care of herself, how can anybody expect her to be able to take care of another human being? Women who are unfit to be mothers often view abortion as one of the best options available to them.  However, this option is slowly becoming unavailable to a good portion of women in the U.S. due to the enactment of admitting privilege laws.I have close relationships with several people who have had abortions because they were in no position at that time in their life to raise a baby.  They were able to do what was best for them because the option to abortion was readily available to them, as it should be to all citizens under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  Admitting privilege laws threaten ideologies and commonplace views that individuals have a right to decide what happens to their bodies.  These laws threaten our constitutional rights and must be fought as they are the sole reason why clinics scattered throughout the U.S. are being forced to shut down.

It is a definite understatement to say that abortion has been an ongoing subject of debate for many decades.  Till this day, there are still many issues regarding this sensitive topic.  Those who are pro life and pro choice have yet to reach stasis because of the conflicting ideologies each group holds.  Most recently in the news, a 2-to-1 vote was taken by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to strike down a 2012 law signed by Governor Phil Bryant, requiring all doctors in Mississippi to obtain admitting privileges in nearby hospitals.  Voting to block this law is the only thing keeping Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic in business.  For those of you who don’t know what an admitting privilege is, an admitting privilege means that abortion doctors are able to admit their patients into a hospital if complications were to occur during the procedure.  The law was created under the guise of helping and protecting women, when in actuality the law has done more harm to women than good.  This law has made it seemingly more difficult for the vast majority of women to even have abortions at all.  When abortion doctors try to obtain admitting privileges from hospitals, they are either ignored or denied which is why many abortion clinics have been forced to shut down.  Those in favor of the law argue that women are not unduly burdened because they can easily travel to clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  However supporters of these admitting privilege laws failed to mention that clinics in Baton Rouge and New Orleans will eventually be forced to shut down thanks to the passing of Louisiana House Bill 388, a law similar to the one in Mississippi.  Judge E. Grady Jolly stated, “A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens’ federal constitutional rights.”  If all states start to adopt similar laws, women will have nowhere to turn for help.  Judges are comparing this incident to a Supreme Court decision in 1938 in which the University of Missouri law school gave an African American man a tuition stipend to go to school in another state because of his race.

It has been reported that no doctors in the Mississippi state are even willing to provide abortion services.  As a result of this, there are only two doctors who travel to Mississippi to perform these services, one of whom is Dr. Willie Parker.  Dr. Parker is aware that Mississippi has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. and that without his services, many women would be left feeling helpless.  Even though he receives daily threats and faces the risk of being killed because his name and home address have been listed on antiabortion websites, Dr. Parker continues to perform abortions for women.  He continues on in this line of work because he knows that few doctors will help the women he takes on as patients.  He stated in an interview with Esquire, “that he refuses to wear a bulletproof vest, because he doesn’t want to live in fear-if I’m that anxious, they’ve already taken my life.”  He reassures his patients that the potential risks of abortion are the same risks that go with giving birth and that a woman is ten times more likely to die giving birth.  Dr. Parker goes on to say, “There’s nothing immoral about taking care of your health.  There’s nothing immoral about making the decision to not become a parent before you want to become one.  There’s more than one way to understand religion and spirituality and God.  I do have belief in God.  That’s why I do this work.  My belief in God tells me that the most important thing you can do for another human being is help them in their time of need.”

Ten other states besides Mississippi have similar laws which have led to the closing of many clinics.  In Texas where many clinics have been shut down, some women have no choice but to drive more than 100 miles.  Those who support admitting privilege laws say that they were put in place to keep women safe by guaranteeing that doctors in clinics have access to treat their patients in hospitals if needed.  Governor Bryant argues that, “this measure is designed to protect the health and safety of women who undergo this potentially dangerous procedure, and physicians who provide abortions should be held to the same standards as physicians who perform other outpatient procedures.”  Those who oppose these laws reason that “the requirement is unnecessary, since patients in distress are automatically treated in emergency rooms, and that it gives religious-affiliated hospitals veto power over who can work in an abortion clinic and, by extension, whether a clinic can stay open.”  In a 2013 court filing, the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists claim that laws like the admitting privilege law “actually put women at risk by making safe abortions more difficult to obtain.” Esquire points out that, “the law seeks to solve a problem that does not exist, and its regulations are completely arbitrary, an abuse of regulatory authority.” Especially since there is only a 0.3 chance of a patient having to go to the hospital after an abortion.

Governor Bryant signed this law back in 2012, not because patients were his main concern but because he wanted abortion to become nonexistent in the state of Mississippi. If the sole clinic of Mississippi were to shut it’s doors, this would inevitably become another stressor for women wanting/needing an abortion, especially since not all women have the necessary funds to travel to another state to have the procedure.  Judge Emilio Garza states “The sole act of crossing a state border cannot, standing alone, constitute an unconstitutional undue burden on the abortion right because the Constitution envisions free mobility of persons without regard to state borders.”  The reality is, if a woman is unable for any reason to travel to the next closest abortion clinic, she may become desperate and try to perform the abortion on herself which can lead to serious, even deadly consequences.  All women, especially women who are raped and become pregnant should be able to easily access abortion clinics in their state.  One of the women being interviewed at the Mississippi abortion clinic stated “… my husband passed away—he committed suicide. He committed suicide in front of his family.  I already have one son with him, and I just feel very alone.  I don’t have the means—the financial means—to raise another child…right now my mental state is not … appropriate for a young child.  So I would like to address my mental health and seek out therapy and counseling before I bring another life into this world.” For women like the one who gave this statement, abortion is the best option they have.  To try and take that option away from them is just not right.

States should not adopt admitting privilege laws because it burdens and harms women as seen in my examples.  This issue matters to anyone who is pro choice and to anyone who is pro life.  It should matter to all women because this issue has the potential to affect all women.  This issue also has the potential to affect a woman’s family, the father of the child or her partner if she has one.  People who are pro life will most likely want to see all states enact admitting privilege laws while those who are pro choice will want to see laws like these abolished or modified.  This issue is important because it has to do with people knowing about the rights they are entitled to as citizens of the United States.  The truth of the matter is, abortion is legal to all U.S. citizens. Nobody has the right to tell another person what they can and cannot do to their body.  As a woman, I am deeply affected by this issue because there may come a time in my life when I become pregnant and have to make important decisions.  At this time, I would hope that all options, including abortion, would be available to me.


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