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Women won't stand for abortion-rights rollback

By Cecile Richards
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cecile Richards: Louisiana latest state in South to pass bill limiting where women can get abortion
  • She says laws an anti-abortion strategy; require docs to have admitting privileges at hospitals
  • Richards: Roe v. Wade justices didn't envision women traveling hundreds of miles for abortion
  • Richards: Women won't stand for this. Politicians on the wrong side of this issue will be ousted

Editor's note: Cecile Richards is president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund

(CNN) -- Last week, the Louisiana legislature passed a bill that could force all but two of the state's abortion providers to close their doors, which means Louisiana is preparing to join Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi to the list of Southern states on the verge of wiping out access to safe and legal abortion.

Laws such as the one now headed to Gov. Bobby Jindal's desk appear to be part of a national strategy to subject doctors who provide abortion to medically unnecessary restrictions under the guise of improving patient safety despite the fact that abortion is already one of the safest medical procedures in the country.

These laws have one real purpose: to make it almost impossible for a woman to get an abortion, no matter what circumstances she may be facing.

Cecile Richards
Cecile Richards

Three years ago in Texas, there were 62 health centers that provided safe and legal abortion. Come this fall, as a result of harsh abortion restrictions, there could be as few as seven. That's seven health centers for 5.7 million women of reproductive age in a state roughly the size of France.

When Gov. Rick Perry forced these restrictions through the legislature, he proudly announced that his goal was to make abortion "a thing of the past." The result? Texas is now experiencing a public health crisis. In addition to safe and legal abortion, many of these health centers also provided lifesaving preventive care to women with nowhere else to turn.

With these restrictions, the United States is poised to become a country in which a woman's ability to make the private and personal medical decision best for herself and her family will be dependent upon where she happens to live. That's not supposed to happen in this country, and it cannot be what the Supreme Court intended when it established a woman's right to safe and legal abortion more than 40 years ago.

Women in these states will tell you: When it comes to safe and legal abortion, there's a world of difference between a constitutional right and reality.

For women in Montgomery and Birmingham who will have to travel anywhere from 200 to 400 miles round-trip to the nearest abortion provider in the state -- a trip existing law forces many of them to make twice -- and for women in New Orleans, who could find themselves 300 miles from the nearest provider, access to abortion becomes nearly impossible.

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How many women will be able to can take that much time off of work or afford to travel all day? They shouldn't have to.

The only effective way to stop these attacks on women's health is to change who is in office passing these laws.

Extreme politicians may not have reached their limit when it comes to grandstanding at the expense of women's health and safety but we women have already reached ours.

It's a standoff that will continue through November. On the one side: a small group of politicians who want to take us back decades. On the other: doctors and medical experts; public officials who are champions of women's health; the majority of voters; and most of all, thousands of women, men, and young people across the country who are willing to fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening.

In Missouri last week, volunteers of all ages from every part of the state braved rain to speak out for 72 hours straight against a harsh bill in the state Senate that would triple the waiting period for an abortion.

Last summer in Texas, I met a whole new generation of activists who came back to the Capitol day after day to make their voices heard in support of access to abortion and who have kept on speaking long after new abortion restrictions were signed into law. And in New Orleans, clergy and business leaders have proudly stood with Planned Parenthood in support of women's health care.

Even in the toughest states -- especially in the toughest states -- women and men have come roaring back. Politicians who are attacking women's health are on the wrong side of this issue. And women are not only watching, they're voting.

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