What The Media Should Know About July 1st's Rollback Of Abortion Access In Florida And Tennessee

Anti-choice legislation will be enacted in Tennessee and Florida starting July 1, imposing unnecessarily extended waiting periods before women can obtain abortion procedures. But media should note that these restrictions to abortion access are discriminatory and will prevent many women from receiving vital reproductive health care.

UPDATE: A Florida judge blocked the state's impending enactment of the restrictive 24-hour abortion waiting period just before the law was to be implemented, according to a June 30 report from the Associated Press.

Florida And Tennessee To Enact Restrictive Anti-Choice Waiting Periods In July

Abortion Access May Be In “Shambles” After July 1. July 1 marks a major rollback in abortion access as Tennessee and Florida enact major pieces of anti-choice legislation. As Robin Marty explained for Talking Points Memo, both Tennessee and Florida's laws would enforce mandatory waiting periods on those seeking abortion care:

Meanwhile, July 1 is also the start date of a new 48-hour, face-to-face waiting period the Tennessee legislature passed earlier this spring. That waiting period, as well as a law requiring all abortion clinics meet much more stringent, medically unnecessary “ambulatory surgical center” regulations, was signed by the Governor in May and also will be enforced at the first of the month. A request for an injunction was filed late on June 25, and it is unclear yet if a judge will block it.

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Florida, too, will have their own new face-to-face, two-appointment waiting period effective on July 1st, although theirs is just 24 hours long. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and the Center for Reproductive Rights is representing providers who sued to stop that waiting period from going into effect. Whether or not abortion rights supporters will walk away at the end of the month with an injunction is still up in the air, although a judge said he would rule “very soon.” Mandatory 24-hour waits are not uncommon in the country, with Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas among those who make a person make two trips at least 24 hours apart in order to terminate a pregnancy. This makes it harder for legal experts to argue that it is an undue burden on a person trying to obtain an abortion and successfully get the law blocked. [Talking Points Memo, 6/26/15]

Mandatory Delays In Abortion Care, Like Those To Be Enforced In Florida And Tennessee, Create “Excessive” Barriers To Care

National Latina Institute For Reproductive Health: Florida's Waiting Period Will Create  “Needless And Burdensome Logistical And Financial Barriers” To Care.  As The Atlantic outlined in a May 26 article, mandated waiting periods create significant barriers to abortion access for many seeking care. As Jessica González-Rojas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explained, Florida's bill in particular “would create needless and burdensome logistical and financial barriers” and would “have a disproportionately negative impact on Latinas, immigrant women, young women, and women of color across the state, who already struggle to get the care they need.”  [The Atlantic5/26/15]

Waiting Periods “Injure All Florida Women Seeking Abortions” By Unnecessarily Imposing Additional Costs And Prolonging Treatment. As noted in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida and the Center for Reproductive Rights that seeks to block the implementation of Florida's waiting period, forcing an additional trip to a clinic after a waiting period will “injure all Florida women seeking abortions” by “impos[ing] tangible costs” associated with the extra trip such as “lost wages and added travel and child-care costs.” The suit went on to explain that for many it is “difficult, if not impossible” to schedule appointments within a 24-hour window, delaying access to care for many and “prolong[ing] some women's pregnancies into the second trimester” -- increasing the risk of complications. [Complaint for Gainesville Woman Care LLC vs. State of Florida6/11/15]

Waiting Periods Create “Excessive Hardships” On Those Seeking Abortion Care. A three-year study conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project to examine the impact of Texas' anti-choice legislation, including the state's 24-hour waiting period, found that forcing patients to wait unnecessarily for an abortion created “excessive hardships” on those seeking care, including additional “emotional and financial burdens” :

Many women struggled to get to a clinic for the required counseling session the day before their abortion. The study's participants traveled an average of 42 miles to visit the nearest clinic, but some were forced to travel as far as 400 miles away from their homes to comply with the law. And nearly half of the women incurred additional costs from the 24-hour waiting period -- $146 on average -- because making multiple trips to a clinic required them to pay for extra transportation and child care on top of the cost of the abortion procedure. Ultimately, nearly one third of the respondents said the waiting period negatively effected their emotional well-being. [ThinkProgress, 3/6/13]

Center For Reproductive Rights: Mandatory Abortion Delays Increase Risk Of Complication.  The Center for Reproductive Rights explained how extended delays in abortion procedures “harm women” by posing “real obstacles, particularly for low-income women” to accessing care. These delays also force many to postpone care until later in pregnancy, which increases the risk of complications.  [Center for Reproductive Rights, 9/30/10]

National Partnership For Women And Families: Mandatory Delay Requirements  “Require Providers To Withhold Care, Even If Doing So Violates Their Medical Judgment.”  According to a report by the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPFW), required delays in abortion care and access “take decision-making away from the health care provider and patient,” an act which causes many doctors to “withhold care, even if doing so violates their medical judgment.” The report went on to explain that these requirements hurt low-income women in particular, “exacerbating health disparities” :

The impact of mandatory delays is exacerbated by the national shortage of abortion providers and can result in waits of greater duration than the state-mandated period. Eighty-nine percent of counties in the United States do not have a single abortion provider. Even for those counties that do have one or more providers, abortion services might be available only on certain days. Several states have only one clinic that offers surgical abortions, and some clinics rely on doctors to fly in from out of state.

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Unnecessary delay requirements create the heaviest burden on rural, young and low-income women, exacerbating health disparities. [National Partnership for Women and Families, 7/24/14]