A new tactic is proving one of the most effective in years for pro-life groups trying to reduce the number of abortions in America.
Laws and regulations setting higher standards and operating controls for clinics have forced many abortion providers to shut down in Texas and other states, greatly reducing the availability of abortions in large parts of the country.
A recent spate of clinic closings is drawing cheers from pro-life advocates, who see the shutdowns as proof that stricter standards closer to those that govern hospitals and other health care facilities, plus pro-life outreach efforts, are working.
Pro-choice supporters counter that they will have their day in court and that judges eventually will strike down these laws as a backdoor way to undercut rights guaranteed by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
In Texas, a total of 19 clinics — including two this month — have closed after lawmakers passed a series of abortion-regulating bills, including one that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Mississippi’s hospital privileges law has led that state’s only abortion clinic to go to court to stay open. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has won at the District Court level but faces the state again in a federal appellate court hearing this spring.
In Florida, a well-established Tallahassee clinic has decided to close its doors this month for unknown reasons. In Alabama, the last two abortion clinics in Birmingham, the state’s largest city, are not operating.
It looks like Birmingham is now “abortion-clinic-free,” said Dana Cody, executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, who attributed the apparent closures to new laws, public health enforcement efforts, and prayers and outreach by pro-life sidewalk counselors.
“When abortion clinics are required to adhere to the kind of standards that we expect from any kind of medical facility many of them will shut down. And I think that’s a real indictment of the entire abortion business,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.
Pro-choice supporters who oppose hospital privileges and other “targeted regulation of abortion providers” are taking their fights to courts and the public square.
“It certainly feels like the women in Alabama are under assault. It really feels oppressive here,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.
Her office is awaiting a court decision on Alabama’s hospital privilege law. Its clients — three Alabama clinics, including a Planned Parenthood facility in Birmingham that is not in operation — are asking the court to strike down the law. Alabama’s abortion laws “are not about improving health care for women. They are designed to prohibit abortion and overthrow Roe v. Wade,” Ms. Watson said.
That fact that these kinds of laws are popping up all over the country shows “a concerted effort” to hamper abortion rights, said Randall Marshall, legal director of ACLU of Alabama.
NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America are among those decrying a “war on women” because of efforts to put up barriers to legal abortion.
Pro-life leaders say they are watching clinics, including the “closed” ones, even as they rejoice in the cessation of business.