The XX Factor

Anti-Choice Extremists Gain Upper Hand in Virginia

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Jessica, what especially gets to me about Virginia’s new regulations that will likely shut down most or all of the 22 abortion providers in the state is that the proponents of the regulations are just so disingenuous.  Every time an anti-choicer bleats about how this is about “protecting” women, I feel like I’ve been locked in a room with someone trying to sell me a time share. It’s not just that it’s a snow job, it’s that it’s such a terrible one at that.  No one believes that line: not the people passing the regulations, not the people writing the regulations, not the opponents of the regulations.  

There’s still some confusion about what the ramifications of these regulations will be.  The regulations basically treat abortion like it’s a dangerous surgical procedure—it’s actually closer to getting a cavity drilled in terms of safety—but that leaves open the question of medical abortions performed with RU-486, which constitute a growing portion of abortions. I didn’t see the question addressed in any coverage of the regulations, but in my experience from other states passing similar restrictions, RU-486 is in fact treated like a surgical abortion for the purposes of the regulations. After all, the point of them is to stop abortions, not protect women. Also, the preferred standard of care with RU-486 is to have a doctor’s office with tools to empty the uterus in a pinch, in case the drugs don’t completely do the job.  It’s not absolutely necessary, but preferred, so I can see how these regulations could sweep up medical abortions with surgical abortions.  

Some commenters in the thread below your post, Jessica, were asking why this would close the doors of some Planned Parenthood clinics.  There are a couple of reasons that would happen in some cases. For one, providing abortions is part of the mission of Planned Parenthood, and they do make it a priority. It’s a necessary service, after all.  I think some times that point gets lost in all the discussion of the 97 percent of their services that aren’t abortion. The other reason I suspect these regulations would harm Planned Parenthood’s ability to keep as many clinics open to offer non-abortion services as they currently do is that a complete shut-down of abortion services would create a cash flow problem for them.  Abortions are 3 percent of the actual services Planned Parenthood provides, but they constitute a larger chunk of their income, around 15 percent nationally. Which makes sense; abortions simply cost more than Pap smears and birth control pills, and Planned Parenthood provides a huge chunk of all the abortions in the country, even for women who get their standard gynecological care elsehwere.  The reason for that should be obvious; a lot of women’s regular gynecologists don’t provide abortion, and so if you want an abortion, your doctor is likely to refer you to Planned Parenthood.

But I’m not really in the mood to argue for abortion access because it makes it that much easier to get other kinds of care people are more comfortable with. Abortion care is necessary for its own sake. Depriving the women of Virginia of 22 clinics providing this necessary service is a straight-up human rights violation. Pro-choicers have gotten away from talking about abortion in those terms, but we really should. It may not seem obvious to everyone why abortion access is a human right, but if you’re pregnant and you really don’t want to be, the importance of abortion access suddenly becomes quite clear.