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Mandatory Waiting Periods, Ultrasounds, and other Barriers to Abortion

When we think about areas in the US that are most vulnerable to laws that impede or limit abortion access, we tend to think of them as being far, far away from our “Boulder bubble.” However, that is not the case. Every legislative session, battles are fought in our state capitol and “barrier bills” are introduced in both the Colorado House and Senate. In fact, today an anti-choice bill was heard in the Colorado State Senate. This bill, SB 284, was titled with no apparent intended irony A Woman’s Right to Accurate Health Care Information and faced harsh criticism for essentially combining the most common anti-choice legislative pieces and putting them into one bill. SB 284, which luckily did not pass the Senate today, required that:

  • Patients must wait at least 24 hours after a mandatory ultrasound to have an abortion.

  • The patient sign a form to confirm they were offered:

  • To hear a physical description of the fetus, “including information of the probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed and the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of an unborn child at that age.”

  • To hear a description of immediate and long-term physical and psychological risks involved in the abortion procedure.

  • Information on other options, such as adoption, and be informed of any financial assistance they could qualify for if they continue the pregnancy

  • Information regarding medical abortion reversal, which is not scientifically proven to work

To read the bill in full, go here.

SB 284 was a serious insult to women’s choice and autonomy. At their core, bills like these assume that a woman seeking abortion has not given any thought to her decision, does not understand the nature of pregnancy, should be convinced to change her mind or made to feel guilty if she doesn’t. SB 284 even directly stated that its intent was to “protect the unborn child from a woman’s uninformed decision to have an abortion.“ Unfortunately, bills like this are increasingly common in state legislatures–and real people have to deal with the consequences when they pass. In fact, as many as 57% of women aged 15-44 live in a state that is hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights.

In 2017, legislators introduced 1,053 provisions related to reproductive health–and almost half of these provisions were aimed at limiting abortion access. Barrier bills often disproportionately affect members of already marginalized communities. A new study from the Guttmacher Institute shows there is a cumulative impact on women of having to navigate all of these multiple barriers, including delays in accessing services, negative mental health consequences, and more women considering ending the pregnancy outside of a clinic setting.

These particular barrier laws, while startling and upsetting because they were championed in our own state senate, are only a small sampling of a broad, insidious collection of legislative tactics intended to limit abortion access. Every iteration of these laws hides behind the guise of protecting or defending women, when, in fact, the effect is exactly the opposite: barriers to providing abortions make the procedure more risky and inaccessible. And what’s more, doing so is unconstitutional, according to the 2016 Supreme Court ruling on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

While we may have dodged a bullet in the Senate this morning, legal abortion means nothing if these services aren’t accessible to the communities that need them the most.

For more information about abortion restrictions across America, check out this map.

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