Ensuring safe, legal, and accessible abortion care for all women, regardless of their income level or other social barriers, drives our legal and public policy work.
The legal and policy experience of NAF’s staff allows us to bring NAF’s unique knowledge to elected officials, their staff, and the media. With the expertise of our members and the compelling stories of women who have faced barriers in accessing abortion care, we are able to focus on the practical aspects of policy initiatives in debates about anti-abortion legislation. We provide factual information about abortion and standards of care, perspectives from medical professionals, and the real-life experiences of NAF’s abortion provider members and women who have chosen abortion care.
NAF State Policy Department
NAF works to ensure that the voices of providers and patients are heard at the state level. State abortion legislation directly affects the health and lives of women across the country. Hundreds of anti-choice restrictions are proposed at the state level every year—state legislatures considered more than 500 provisions limiting women’s access to abortion in 2015 alone—and more than 350 anti-choice measures have become law in the past decade.
Fighting Harmful TRAP Laws
In the last three years, more than 200 anti-abortion restrictions were enacted at the state level. Many of these laws are Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers – or TRAP laws. TRAP bills single out abortion providers for medically unnecessary, politically motivated state regulations, which are calculated to chip away at abortion access under the guise of legitimate regulation. We have seen the harmful effects of this unprecedented attack on women’s access to abortion care, as our providers struggle to comply with these new laws across the country. NAF works closely with providers, state leaders and coalitions, grassroots activists, and the medical community to mobilize opposition to anti-abortion legislation, and with state health departments to educate them on our evidence-based Clinical Policy Guidelines.
State bills that impose broad bans on abortion care come in several different forms and affect a number of safe and commonly provided abortion procedures. Abortion bans have been struck down as unconstitutional in dozens of court cases. However, they continue to be a popular form of legislation that anti-choice legislators attempt to pass in their states.
Admitting Privileges Requirements
Many states have tried to enact legislation that requires physicians to obtain admitting or staff privileges at a local hospital. These requirements are often insurmountable obstacles for abortion providers, resulting in the closure of many health care facilities, as has recently been the case in Texas.
Admitting (or courtesy) privileges are a business arrangement between physicians or a medical facility and a hospital that permits approved physicians to treat patients within the hospital setting. Given the excellent safety record of abortion care, there is no medical reason to require physicians providing abortion care to obtain admitting and staff privileges at a hospital. In fact, well respected medical organizations like the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have opposed admitting privileges requirements across the country, as they are out of step with the modern practice of medicine and provide no real benefit to patients. In the rare instance that a woman would need emergency care in a hospital, the emergency room staff and on-call physicians are available to provide that care, just as they would for any other type of complication.
As it serves no medical purpose, this requirement is clearly politically-motivated, and its true intent is to make it impossible for physicians to provide abortion care. There are many reasons why a physician providing abortion care would not routinely have hospital admitting privileges, none of which have to do with the quality of care they provide. The criteria for obtaining admitting privileges vary substantially from hospital to hospital and are influenced by factors such as religious affiliation, hospital administration, and social pressure. Further, many hospitals require physicians to admit a minimum number of patients per month or per year in order to obtain or maintain admitting privileges. Due to the outstanding safety record of abortion care and the low incidence of complications requiring hospital transfers, abortion providers are seldom able to satisfy such requirements, and are frequently denied admitting privileges as a result.
Mandatory delays disproportionately harm those women with fewer financial resources or those who live in rural areas where there are no abortion providers. Research has demonstrated that mandatory delays are burdensome for women and have a negative impact on their emotional well-being and financial security. Extended mandatory delays may force some women to delay their abortion care later in their pregnancies, exposing them to unnecessary increased health risks and added expenses.
Every woman deserves factual medical information whenever she is facing a decision about her pregnancy. A woman and her doctor are in the best position to make treatment decisions together based on individual patient circumstances, without interference from politicians. Our members provide responsive care and information that reflects the needs of each individual patient.
Parental involvement laws do not achieve their stated purpose of increasing safety of younger patients. Parental consent and notification requirements do not encourage healthy family communication, but frequently compromise young people’s health and safety. The Guttmacher Institute has found that the clearest impact of such laws is an increase in teens traveling outside their home state to obtain their abortion care in states that do not have such laws or have less restrictive ones.