There’s a new type of abortion roadblock that’s swiftly gaining popularity: a state-imposed wait between the day a woman decides to have the procedure and the day she can actually get one.
In recent weeks, Oklahoma tripled the length of its waiting period, becoming the fourth state with a 72-hour (three-day) delay. Florida enacted a 24-hour waiting period between two different appointments—one for an ultrasound and another for the procedure. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a two-day waiting-period bill last month—and simultaneously made the state the record-holder for the number of abortion restrictions passed in 2015 so far, advocates say. Tennessee passed a 48-hour wait just last week. Twenty-six states in all now impose these mandatory delays.
Proponents of these measures say they are simply injecting more time into the process so that women can fully consider their choices. “This legislation will help women get the information they need before making a decision they can’t take back,” Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said after she signed that state’s bill. “It will allow for more time to consider medical risks as well as explore alternatives to abortion, such as adoption.”
But opponents say waiting periods represent another attempt by pro-lifers to bring about the end of abortion by a thousand restrictions—from legislating the widths of clinic hallways, to requiring doctors to (wrongly) tell their patients that there’s a way to reverse abortions, and now this. Pro-choice advocates point out that most women don’t reconsider having an abortion once they’ve already resolved to have one. A 2008 study of 49 women published in Social Work in Health Care found that most patients had already made up their minds by the time they called the clinic.