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What abortion access looks like in America even before the Supreme Court reconsiders Roe v. Wade

The blockbuster clash over Roe v. Wade now in front of the Supreme Court comes after a successful, decades-long guerrilla warfare campaign by the anti-abortion movement to attack access to the procedure around the edges.

Since the 1973 decision that enshrined a constitutional right to an abortion, activists and their partners in statehouses across the country have enacted more than 1,300 laws that have made the procedure more difficult to obtain.

Five states have only one clinic within their borders, and in large swaths of the country, abortion-seekers must travel for miles to obtain the procedure. States also impose limits, like waiting periods, parental consent requirements, advice mandates and restrictions on the specific types of procedures offered.

About 580 of such restrictions have been enacted just in the last decade, according to the reproductive rights think tank Guttmacher Institute. These restrictions compound upon each other, and particularly in states in the South and Midwest, abortion patients face not one or two, but several separate obstacles to obtaining the procedure.

For instance, in Kansas, a patient must wait 24 hours after her initial appointment to get an abortion; she must receive information about the procedure that is medically inaccurate and misleading; if she is a minor, she must get consent from both her parents; and she cannot use private insurance or — in most cases — public funding to pay for the procedure.

“You’re told that you can’t actually act on your decision until you jump through all the hoops that the state where you live has put out in front of you,” said Elisabeth Smith, the director of state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “That is all that is all meant to make the person seeking abortion care feel the stigma that anti-abortion folks believe it is true.”

This incremental approach to limiting access is, all at once, a strategy of policy, politics and law. By focusing on laws that chip away at the availability of the procedure, anti-abortion activists have secured key court decisions upholding those laws that have helped inch the Supreme Court closer to rethinking Roe, while keeping the issue in the national conversation.

“The way to deal with Roe v. Wade was to understand that, if we were going to change it, we had to — in the interim — operate under it, but challenge it, or at least save lives in the meantime, with provisions that would limit abortion,” James Bopp, the longtime general counsel of the National Right to Life Committee, told WEBICNEWS.

Sometimes states passed laws in reaction to court decisions that opened the door to more restrictions, according to Katie Glenn, the government affairs counsel for the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

“Or, it’s pushing the boundaries,” Glenn told WEBICNEWS. “It’s like: here’s the policy we want in our state, let’s go ahead and pass it. Let’s see what we can do in the court.”

In the meantime, abortion remains extremely difficult to access for some women, regardless of whether the Supreme Court upholds, reverses or waters down Roe in the case, concerning Mississippi’s 15-week ban, being heard in December.


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