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Florida anti-abortion bill part of ‘supply-side’ shift

NPR and Kaiser Health News report that abortion opponents are pushing for legislation that will shift focus to the “supply-side” of abortions, which would mean regulating and restricting “the doctors, hospitals and clinics that provide the services.” The Florida Legislature, for example, has already introduced a bill that would do just that. NPR/KHN reports:

States enacted a record number of abortion restrictions in the first half of 2011, many of them requiring 24-hour waiting periods, ultrasounds or parental permission to deter women from obtaining abortions. But these types of “demand-side policies” have not had much of an impact in the past on national abortion rates, according to an article in the most recent edition of the New England* Journal of Medicine.*

Instead, abortion opponents in several states are making “an aggressive new thrust” at the procedure by focusing on the “supply-side” of abortions: the doctors, hospitals and clinics that provide the services. And the strategy may prove more effective, Theodore Joyce of the City University of New York and the National Bureau of Economic Research writes in a perspective.

These types of “supply-side” policies against abortion were particularly effective in Texas, Joyce argues. The Texas Woman’s Right to Know Act, which went into effect in January 2004, included two components: for abortions before 16 weeks, it implementing “demand side” restrictions like requiring women to receive mandated information at least 24 hours before an abortion. For abortions after 16 weeks, it implemented “supply-side” restrictions requiring that later-term abortions be performed in a hospital or an ambulatory surgical center with staffing, reporting and facility-structure requirements.

While the restrictions on early abortions had little to no effect, the number of Texas abortions performed at or after 16 weeks “dropped by 88%, from 3642 in 2003 to 446 in 2004,” Joyce writes, and the average distance to a non-hospital provider rose from 33 miles in 2003 to 252 miles in 2004.

Florida is a great example of this shift. During the last legislative session, state legislators passed new legislation that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion — as well as making it more difficult for young women to bypass the state’s parental notification law if they fear being harmed. These were just two of several bills that passed that year.

Now, however, the Legislature has introduced a new bill that would encompass a long list of restrictions to legal abortions in the state. Included in the bill, are “supply-side” restrictions that target providers in the state.

Which is why women’s health advocates are worried about a new “omnibus anti-choice bill.” The bill, introduced by state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, requires that “an abortion clinic … be owned and operated by a physician who has received training during residency in performing a dilation-and-curettage procedure or a dilation-and-evacuation procedure or by a corporation or limited liability company composed of one or more such physicians.”

It also requires that “each applicable board require a physician who offers to perform or performs abortions to annually complete a course relating to ethics as part of the licensure and renewal process.” However, there is no description of what that “ethics” class would entail.

These are just some of a slew of regulations imposed by the bill.

Florida’s bill has already picked up a state House sponsor.

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