More Uncomfortable News for the Right: Decades of Work by Anti-Choicers Does Nothing to Decrease Abortions

Kelli Conlin

Who knew that anti-choice activists were actually trying to increase the number of second-trimester abortions? Because that's precisely what they've done with their ill-advised, ongoing and ineffective attempts to restrict women's access to safe, legal healthcare.

Who knew that anti-choice activists were actually trying to increase the number of second-trimester abortions? Because that’s precisely what they’ve done with their ill-advised, ongoing and ineffective attempts to restrict women’s access to safe, legal healthcare.

While the American public has repeatedly rejected laws that would make abortion illegal and treat women like criminals, anti-choice lawmakers in twenty-four states have resorted to chipping away at abortion rights by making access more difficult by mandating counseling and waiting periods. Proponents of these tactics claim that they are designed to give women time and information upon which to base their decision to have an abortion.

But these barriers are really ruses to block access. They reinforce the myth that abortion is a decision that women take lightly. The unmitigated truth is that women facing unwanted pregnancies will have already carefully weighed their options before even picking up the phone to make an appointment with a provider. Women evaluate what is best for them based upon their needs and the needs of their families, often consulting with people whom they trust, like family, a partner, and friends.

A Guttmacher Institute paper released today ("The Impact of State Mandatory Counseling andWaiting Period Laws on Abortion: A Literature Review") once and for all validates the pro-choice community’s opposition to obstacles like waiting periods and mandatory counseling sessions, finding that they do not reduce abortion rates, but rather cause unnecessary burdens. With the exception of one state that saw a decrease in abortions overall–though, critically, along with a concurrent increase in second-trimester abortions–not a single restriction showed any evidence of decreasing abortions.

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Anti-choice activists have therefore succeeded not in reducing abortion rates, but in increasing the number of second-trimester abortions and in making life more difficult for women facing unwanted pregnancies. Because, while women aren’t changing their minds about abortion based on these barriers, they do find themselves jumping through more hoops to circumvent them. Women are having more second-trimester abortions (on average, 3 weeks later than their original intent) on account of these barriers or are traveling to other states with less burdensome restrictions.

Waiting periods cause the added burden of having to visit a provider twice, requiring them to take extra time off from work and finding extra child care. For women who have to travel long distances to reach a provider who will perform an abortion, traveling back and forth to that site twice presents a double barrier. Counseling sessions could have the effect of shaming women who have already weighed all their options and decided on abortion as the best option for them.

If anti-choice activists are really interested in reducing abortions, then they would be wise to take the statistics into account before pressing forward with further barriers to women’s access.

If they want to increase later abortions and make women’s lives even harder–well they’ve already done that.

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