According to Wheeler (2013), access to abortion services is one of the controversial issues in modern American society. The issue remains emotive and divisive across the country. Rohlinger (2015) says that “since recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court has in subsequent decisions reaffirmed the right” (p. 41). The court has since been consistent that a woman should not be denied her right to choose whether or not she will carry the pregnancy to term.
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However, some conservative lawmakers have tried to come up with policies that restrict the availability of abortion services in various states. As Mitchell (2012) says, people often seek abortion services because of a number of reasons. Some cite economic reasons, age of the expectant mother, cases of rape and incest, among others. The purpose of this analysis is to determine the impact of abortion clinic access policies on the health of Florida women.
The policy targets the public health system and how the emerging policies on access to abortion will affect it. The topic is important because it will try to explain the impact of the new policies being enacted in relation to abortion and propose what can be done to ensure that the lives and interests of women are prioritized even as the society tries to discourage abortion. The following are the questions the policy analysis intends to address:
- What is the impact of the emerging policies on access to clinical abortion services in the state of Florida?
- What can be done to ensure that the lives and interests of women are prioritized even as society tries to discourage abortion?
- How will the public health system be affected if the new policies restricting access to clinical abortion remain unchallenged?
Clinical abortion has been available in the state of Florida, just like in many other states across the country, for a long time despite the resentment that a section of the society has towards it. Most of these pregnancies are unintended and unplanned, making it necessary for women to seek ways of terminating them. According to Kalantry (2017), 75,990 abortions were procured in the state of Florida in the year 2014 based on the available statistics.
It represented a 13% drop in the abortion cases in the country from 2011 to 2014. The study also shows that abortions in the state of Florida account for 8.2% of all the reported abortions in the country (Kalantry, 2017). The report indicates that in 2014, Florida had 86 facilities that provide abortion services, out of which 71 were clinics. It represents a 2% decline in the number of facilities that offer these services.
A number of states, including Florida, have now enacted laws blocking the funds for abortion services at the clinics. Some have come up with measures meant to frustrate hospitals that are offering these services. The net outcome of these state-level policies is that abortion clinic access has become less available to the women who need it. The main problem with these laws is that they fail to realize that some deserving women may be denied these services as clinics try to meet the state demands. The nature of these laws makes it difficult to know when abortion services will be justifiable for funding or not. On April 2017, a number of laws restricting abortion came into effect as follows:
- The health plan, as offered under the Affordable Care Act, only covers abortion services in case it is proven that the life of the mother is in danger, cases of incest, and when one is raped (Kalantry, 2017).
- In case a minor needs to have an abortion, the parent must be duly notified (Kalantry, 2017).
- A woman must have an ultrasound before she is allowed to have an abortion (Kalantry, 2017).
The above requirements and many others are seen to limit the ability of women to have access to quality abortion services. The strength of the policy is in the fact that it limits cases of abortion to instances when it is medically necessary. It eliminates abortion on demand in the state. However, its weakness is that it discourages the services even when one genuinely needs them. The new policy will have a significant impact on women, especially those below 25 years who do not understand how to use contraceptives. It will also affect clinicians who offer these services.
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Abortion on demand has faced heavy criticism over the years since the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973. A section of the society feels that it encourages irresponsible sexual behavior as women are assured of proper medical services fully funded by the state whenever they abortion services. They fail to realize that they endanger their lives as they can acquire other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) that may affect the quality of their lives.
On the other hand, it is unfair to deny a woman who has been raped or one whose life is in danger of access to abortion services. As such, it is necessary for the state of Florida to have alternative policies that can enable it to achieve the desired objectives. Alternative policies which are elaborate, non-discriminatory, and unambiguous are needed to address this issue. The state should have policies that require proper justification whenever every woman goes to a clinic for abortion services. Other than cases of incest, rape, and when a mother’s life is in danger, there should also be a policy that considers the age of the expectant mother.
In selecting the best policy, priority should be placed on protecting life and the future of the mother. It will be unfair to force a 12-year old girl to carry a pregnancy to term. That is why the alternative that also takes into consideration the age of the mother- besides other requirements mentioned above- is the most appropriate. It will have a positive impact on the affected population. It will also eliminate the fear most healthcare institutions have when offering these services. In this new policy, the trade-off will be that abortion that lacks medical and socio-economic justification will be less accessible in Florida. On the other hand, numerous requirements, such as the need for ultrasound or waiting for a specified period will be eliminated.
Based on the analysis, the best alternative is for the state of Florida to restrict access to state-funded abortion on demand and instead offer the services to those with proper medical and social justification. A pregnancy that endangers the life of the mother should be eliminated as soon as possible. A woman who becomes pregnant because of rape or cases of incest should also be allowed to make the choice of having an abortion or not. A girl who is too young to reasonably become a mother (13 year old or younger) should also be allowed to have access to these services. On the other hand, a mature woman who gets pregnant because of personal choices should not be allowed to use state resources in case she needs the abortion services. That is the justification for the new law.
The best strategy to implement is to have a law that will have an elaborate requirement for those seeking abortion services, unless a clinician is dealing with an emergency. The law should require abortion clinics to determine whether each case meets the threshold set. In cases of rape, a document must be presented confirming the same. A clinic should then compile a report in each case that will be verified by the authorities to determine the authenticity of the claims.
The major barrier to implementing this strategy is that some clinicians and their patients may come up with fake justification that can be difficult to verify. The best method of determining success of the policy is to evaluate the reported cases of abortion in the state per given period. The goal is to have a significant reduction of abortion cases in the country.
The analysis above clearly shows that the emerging policies enacted in Florida will have a major impact on access to clinical abortion services. The state has enacted laws that limit access to state funds for abortion services unless it is justified that the life of the mother is in danger or the pregnancy was an outcome of an incest or rape. The number of clinics offering these services is decreasing, and it is necessary to look at what can be done to ensure that lives and interests of women are prioritized even as the society tries to discourage abortion. It is recommended that the state should enact new policies that discourage abortion while at the same time avoiding victimization against women who genuinely deserve the services (Madani, 2013).
Public healthcare system will be affected if the new policies restricting access to clinical abortion remain unchallenged. Lives of many young women who are within the reproductive age will be affected if they are denied these services when they deserve have them. That is why the legislators and the governor of this state must be committed to having a policy that will protect women while at the same time eliminating unjustified abortions.
The main limitation of this analysis is that primary data was not collected to help validate the findings from secondary sources. However, the study will have major implications for practice, research, education, and policy. Policy makers and practitioners will find this document informing when making decisions on this controversial issue. Educationists and researcher will also benefit from this document that provides current information about abortion policies.
Abortion is one of the most controversial issues in the United States, and the state of Florida has come up with policies to regulate it. However, the current policies discourage the practice even among those who genuinely need it for medical and socio-economic reasons. The study has provided recommendations on what needs to be done to have a compromise. Future studies should address the following questions:
- How can the state of Florida discourage unwanted pregnancies among women in the reproductive age?
- Is it constitutional for the state to ban abortion on demand?
Appendix 1: Florida is one of the states with very strict abortion laws
Appendix 2: Dropping cases of abortion in Florida
Kalantry, S. (2017). Women’s human rights and migration: Sex-selective abortion laws in the United States and India. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Madani, H. (2013). The Supreme Court and the judicial branch: How the federal courts interpret our laws. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers.
Mitchell, D. (2012). Right to the city: Social justice and the fight for public space. New York, NY: Guilford Publications.
Parker, W. (2017). Life’s work: A moral argument for choice. New York, NY: Atria Books.
Rohlinger, D. (2015). Abortion politics, mass media, and social movements in America. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
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Wheeler, L. A. (2013). How sex became a civil liberty. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.