From Texas to Alabama, laws are being enacted that would greatly restrict access to abortion, forcing many women to travel hundreds of miles to find a clinic. The laws, requiring abortion doctors to have privileges to admit patients to local hospitals, could have a profound impact on women in poor and rural sections of the Bible Belt.
In many places in the South, clinic doctors come from out of state to perform abortions and don't have ties to a local hospital. Critics say the laws mean hospitals, leery of attracting anti-abortion protesters, could get veto power over whether the already-scarce clinics remain in business. They say the real aim is to outlaw abortions while supporters say they are protecting women's health.
The laws are the latest among dozens of restrictions on abortions that states have enacted in the past two decades, including 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent and ultrasound requirements.
"You're looking at huge swaths of the country where women's options are becoming severely limited," said Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.