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State abortion laws place unprecedented limits, requirements on doctors

Several states recently continued their push to implement more restrictions on when doctors are allowed to provide abortions, in some cases effectively cutting off access to the procedures, according to opponents.

Wisconsin Planned Parenthood announced that it had stopped offering nonsurgical abortion services after Gov. Scott Walker signed into law requirements on the physicians facilitating them. Under the new law, a doctor must have three office visits with a woman before prescribing a drug-induced abortion, determine that the woman is not being coerced into the procedure and not use webcams during the procedure. Physicians who don’t follow the mandate could be subject to jail time or other criminal penalties.

The enactment of the law was opposed by the Wisconsin Medical Society, which said that it “directly infringes on the special and private relationship between the patient and physician” by legislating medical protocol.

In Mississippi, a new law requires physicians providing abortions to be board-certified ob-gyns with admitting privileges at local hospitals. Critics say the law targets Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion provider in the state, where all three staff physicians are board-certified but only one has local hospital privileges.

The clinic has until July 1 to comply with the law. Gov. Phil Bryant has indicated his desire to make Mississippi “abortion-free,” although the new statute might face a legal challenge before that can happen.

In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a prohibition on physicians providing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless they determine a woman is experiencing a medical emergency. Arizona follows several states that have banned abortions later in the pregnancy term, but Planned Parenthood of America described it as the “most extreme” anti-abortion statute in the U.S.

“The very narrow exception for medical emergency leaves many scenarios where a woman’s health may be at risk, but where a doctor, for fear of being prosecuted or simply because the health crisis does not rise to the definition of medical emergency, would not be able to offer her care,” the association said in a statement.

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