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Bloomberg: Abortion access diminishing at record rate

Driven by antiabortion-rights regulations, abortion access in the United States is falling at the fastest annual rate ever recorded, according to a Bloomberg News investigation, Bloomberg Business reports.

Report details

For the investigation, Bloomberg compiled data on abortion clinics and considered the information with a similar report conducted in 2013 and the Guttmacher Institute's 2011 report. Guttmacher found that in 2011, there were 553 clinics nationwide.

According to Bloomberg Business, the overwhelming majority of abortion care is provided at standalone clinics, not at hospitals or doctors' offices.

Investigation findings

The investigation found that an average of 31 abortion clinics are closing per year, marking a rate of about one clinic shutting down every two weeks. That rate is the fastest annual pace of clinic closures since 2011, Bloomberg Business reports. Overall, since 2011, at least 162 abortion providers in 35 states have closed or stopped offering abortion care. According to Bloomberg Business, those states are home to more than 30 million women of reproductive age.

In contrast, the investigation found that only 21 new abortion clinics have opened in the last five years and that the reopening of a clinic that had closed was even rarer.

According to the Bloomberg investigation, every region in the country had at least one clinic closure, although some states experienced greater declines that others. Texas saw the greatest number of closures, with at least 30 providers having closed since 2011, while Iowa lost 14 providers, Michigan lost 13 and California lost 12.

Overall, five states now have only one abortion provider in practice. Bloomberg Business reports, "At no time since before 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, has a woman's ability to terminate a pregnancy been more dependent on her zip code or financial resources to travel."

Bloomberg Business reports that about one-third of the facilities that have stopped offering abortion care or have closed since 2011 were operated by Planned Parenthood. About three-quarters of the 21 new facilities are operated by the organization.

Forces behind the trend

More than 25 percent of the 162 closures were driven by regulations that make it too costly or "logistically impossible" for abortion providers to stay open, Bloomberg Business reports. Changing demographics, industry consolidation, lower demand and physician retirements also contributed to clinic closures.

Bloomberg Business cites the scenario in Texas as a "case study" as to how abortion-rights opponents have revised their strategies to focus on legislative action as a means to undermine access to abortion care. Most of the clinics in the state closed following the implementation of provisions in an omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that requires abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center building standards and mandates that physicians have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Deprez, Bloomberg Business, 2/24). The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the provisions on March 2 (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/10).

According to medical professionals, the law if fully enacted would leave about 20 percent of women in the state more than 150 miles from an abortion clinic (Bloomberg Business, 2/24).