“Bad Medicine” Laws Are Harming Women in a Majority of States

| Feb 24, 2016

Imagine for a moment that you are a woman in Louisiana who has decided to have an abortion. Here’s what you will experience as you set out to get safe, legal health care.  

First, you must undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before receiving abortion care – whether or not your doctor thinks it is necessary and whether or not you want one. Your doctor will have to display the ultrasound image and describe it to you in detail, as well as make the fetal heartbeat audible – even if you have made it clear that you do not wish him or her to do so.

Likely at the same visit, your doctor will have to provide you with state-mandated misinformation that abortion may lead to negative emotional outcomes, such as suicidal thoughts, depression or emotional distress – even though these claims have been debunked by the American Psychological Association. Doctors are forced by the state to do so even though they know this is untrue.

Even though you’ve made up your mind about abortion care, these requirements force you to make a medically unnecessary visit to your doctor and then wait 24 hours before obtaining care. You will have to make arrangements to take off time from work or school, arrange child care if you already have children (which the majority of women seeking abortion care do), and travel to the clinic twice to meet this requirement.

It’s also likely you will have to travel much farther than you would have to for other common medical procedures. At least 92 percent of Louisiana counties have no abortion clinic. The lack of abortion providers is in part due to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws), which lawmakers have put in place in Louisiana and 27 other states. These laws force clinics and health care providers to meet onerous requirements that have nothing to do with protecting women’s health; they only serve to force qualified providers out of practice and close trusted clinics.

In Louisiana, clinics have to meet specifications comparable to those of “mini-hospitals,” or ambulatory surgical centers. A law that would require doctors to have medically unnecessary admitting privileges at a local hospital is currently enjoined in litigation; if upheld, Louisiana would be left with a single abortion provider. And although telemedicine could bring medication abortion services to areas where abortion care is otherwise unavailable, Louisiana has banned this safe and effective way of delivering care.

Reading that and trying to keep all those requirements straight probably makes you outraged and offended. Unfortunately, this is the reality women face in many states in this country – 43 years after Roe v. Wade guaranteed the right to choose abortion.

In a report released today, “Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health Care,” the National Partnership describes how women – and dedicated abortion providers – in states across the country face one or more of these outrageous abortion restrictions. The map below shows the 37 states where these laws have passed.

Bad Medicine Laws Across the United States, 2015

In these states, what we call “bad medicine” laws force health care providers to disregard their medical judgment, their ethics and their knowledge of their patients’ needs and preferences. These laws undermine safe, high-quality, patient- and family-centered health care.

And lest you think abortion access is safe in your state because it is not shaded red on this map, be aware that bad medicine laws are proliferating. Not only has the number of bad medicine restrictions grown since we published the first edition of this report 18 months ago, but a number of states have expanded existing restrictions to make them more onerous.

As we prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on Texas’ TRAP law next week, we are reminded about the harm that is caused when lawmakers prioritize politics over women’s health. I encourage you to read “Bad Medicine,” to learn about any restrictions in your state, and to take a stand. Urge your state lawmakers to take politics out of the exam room, so all women can access the high-quality, evidence-based health care they deserve.

Read the new report at