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Is Oklahoma’s New Measure Meant to Shutter Abortion Clinics?

Oklahoma is the latest state to move to put further restrictions on doctors who perform abortions, a move abortion rights groups say is a thinly veiled attempt to shut clinics down.

Under the new law, doctors who perform abortions will be required to have admitting privilege at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic, something advocates of the bill claim is intended not to stop abortions, but improve women’s health in the case of a medical emergency.

Similar laws currently exist in five other states – Kansas, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah – and  have been passed but challenged in three others.

Critics of the bill, however, point out that while it may seem to be protecting women, the bill is actually aimed at crippling abortion clinics – many that rely on out-of-state doctors because of the protests and stigma attached with the procedure – in order to provide women with the care they need.

In addition, since all doctors working at an abortion clinic would have to be approved by the local hospital, faith-based hospitals or conservative administrators could unduly influence the clinics ability to practice by simply refusing privileges, an issue critics say will shut more clinics down.

Already, the law has impacted abortion clinics in Texas, and nearly half have been forced to shutter their doors since the bill passed.

Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, pointed out  the move in Oklahoma and other states is part of a growing trend to limit women’s reproductive rights, especially in the South.

“You’re looking at huge swaths of the country where women’s options are becoming severely limited,” she said.

The Guttmacher Institute also said the bill does not make good medical sense despite being couched in protective-sounding language.  While any medical procedures come with risks, the group insists emergencies resulting from abortions are similar to miscarriage and could be handled adequately by local hospital and emergency room staff, even if the doctor who performed the abortion does not have privileges at the site.

Pro-lifers, though, demand that out-of-state doctors must be stopped to save women’s lives.

“The abortion doctors are flying from out-of-state and so they’re not being held responsible for harming these women,” Ashley Sigrest, who regularly tries to persuade women out of abortions in front of clinics said, calling the measure a much needed protection for women from the clinics.

Photo Credit: VJNet (Illustrative)

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.