What should be a nationwide law of the land, access to abortion, actually depends largely on your ZIP code. When we talk about abortion, we tend to think of Roe versus Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that gave women the right to choose. But to understand the current abortion laws in the United States, we need to look at Planned Parenthood versus Casey. This 1992 Supreme Court ruling said states could create restrictions on abortion as long as they didn’t place an undue burden or a substantial obstacle for women trying to get an abortion. This ruling opened the door for states to pass laws often called targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws. Supporters say these laws protect women. Gov. Phil Bryant: And by requiring that abortionists obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, we are protecting women’s health.
But critics say these laws are overly aggressive and medically unnecessary and that their real aim is to shut down abortion providers. The new regulations led to mandates on the width of hallways, the size of janitor’s closets and other requirements that cost abortion clinics millions of dollars in renovations. This eventually forced two-thirds of the clinics in Texas to shut down. Since 2010, new state laws have forced about 70 abortion clinics across the country to close. Medical experts, like the American Medical Association, say not only do TRAP laws not improve safety, but they block access to safe medical care by making it hard to access safe abortions and in recent years, TRAP laws have gotten even more severe.
Before he became vice president, Mike Pence signed a bill that would have required all fetal tissue to be cremated or buried, basically forcing women to pay for funeral services for a fetus, whether from an abortion or a miscarriage. The bill was signed in March of 2016, but a federal judge blocked it from going into effect, saying it violated a woman’s right to choose. At the start of 2017, almost 50 new anti-abortion bills were introduced or were pending in states across the country, and even more have been added since. Legislation like Missouri’s HB 112 and SB 1129 would allow a court to declare custody over an embryo. Mississippi’s HB 292 would made public schools prohibit any effort to counsel that abortion could be used to prevent the birth of a baby. New Jersey’s AB 3769 would require abortion providers to issue a fetal death certificate after an abortion. So while a woman’s right to choose is guaranteed by federal law, access to this right depends on where you live.