The Triumph of Bureaucracy Over Abortion Rights
Let’s start with the clinics closings. To find out what’s happening on the ground, Bloomberg’s Esmé E. Deprez did the painstaking work of reaching out to abortion providers all across the country, tallying 58 that have closed since 2011. “A wave of regulations that makes it too expensive or logistically impossible for facilities to remain in business drove at least a third of the closings,” she wrote. According to the Dallas Morning News, at least four more clinics are about to close in rural Texas. The sole clinics in North Dakota and Mississippi remain open only because courts have temporarily blocked the regulations that would shut them down.
The story of how clinics are being regulated out of existence isn’t exciting. It’s about laws that specify the size of procedure rooms and the width of clinic hallways, passed specifically to force abortion providers to undertake costly renovations or to close. It’s about the rules requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, passed knowing that the hospitals won’t grant them.
As I write this, I can imagine the rejoinders from anti-abortion activists claiming that these laws protect patients. To answer them, I could explain why medical associations have called these regulations “onerous and unnecessary,” and get into the details of the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which already entitled patients to hospital transfer if something goes wrong. Or I could discuss how some hospitals only grant privileges to doctors who admit three or even ten patients a year, which no abortion provider does, because abortion is so safe. By then, however, most people will have stopped reading, and I can’t really blame them. In this respect, bureaucracy is proving far more effective than right-wing terrorism.