Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

The Consequences of Abortion Restrictions for Women's Healthcare

Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

The Consequences of Abortion Restrictions for Women's Healthcare

Article excerpt

Table of Contents

I. Introduction...................................................................1318

II. The Healthcare Consequences of Abortion Restrictions....................................................................1319

A. The Federal "Partial-Birth" Abortion Ban and Miscarriage Management................................1320

B. Information Control and Prenatal Care.................1322

C. "Conscience" Protection and Pregnancy-Related Care at Sectarian Hospitals....................................1325

D. Medication Abortion Restrictions and Ectopic Pregnancy...................................................1330

III. Roe v. Wade and Abortion as Medical Care..................1335

IV. Conclusion......................................................................1337

I. Introduction

Over the last several decades, as part of the movement against abortion rights, abortion has become increasingly stigmatized and isolated in women's health. The current segregation of abortion from the rest of women's medical needs brings us full circle back to questions raised by Roe v. Wade.1 Although Roe was rightly criticized as over-medicalizing the abortion decision and empowering doctors rather than women, we have now shifted to the opposite extreme of severing abortion completely from the realm of women's health.2 Thus far, the public has failed to understand the interconnectedness of abortion with women's health generally. In fact, existing abortion restrictions harm women's health even for women not actively seeking abortion care, but these effects remain obscured.3 For example, antiabortion laws and policies have spillover effects on miscarriage management, prenatal care, and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.4

As a matter of medical reality, abortion cannot be isolated from women's healthcare more broadly. We can see this by unmasking the ripple effects of abortion restrictions that, perhaps unintentionally, impede the provision of basic healthcare other than abortion. Focusing the public's attention on the broader effects of abortion restrictions on women's health could help make visible the links between abortion and healthcare. Uncovering these links could also create stronger support for access to abortion and thereby better promote full healthcare access for women. Repositioning the law to recognize access to abortion care as integral to women's medical needs remains critical for protecting women's health.

II The Healthcare Consequences of Abortion Restrictions

Part of the popularity of antiabortion measures rests on the faulty belief that those laws affect only the "bad" women who seek abortions. This belief rests on the false assumption that abortion can be isolated from other aspects of women's health. However, as a practical matter, abortion cannot be isolated from the continuum of women's medical care.5 Thus far, policymakers have remained blind to the interconnectedness of abortion care with women's health generally.6 In fact, various abortion restrictions already obstruct women's healthcare, but the public has failed to discern these harmful impacts.7 Below, I describe how existing antiabortion government regulation detrimentally affects care for women in the context of miscarriage management, prenatal care, and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.

A. The Federal "Partial-Birth"Abortion Ban and Miscarriage Management

The federal "partial birth" abortion ban, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart,8 illustrates how laws aimed at abortion impede medical care even for women not actively seeking abortion care. The federal ban purports to prohibit one type of abortion procedure called "partial birth" abortion by its opponents, but known medically as intact D&E.9 Although the federal ban received much attention when the Supreme Court upheld the law, the public has heard little about the effects of this ban since its implementation. …

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