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How State Health Departments Are Closing Abortion Clinics: Five Key Takeaways

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From left to right: Governor Mike Parson (R-Missouri), Governor Matt Bevin (R-Kentucky), and Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio).

Read the full investigation here.

Missouri is on the brink of losing its last abortion clinic. So is Kentucky. In both cases, new abortion laws or bans didn’t create this precipice: State health authorities did.

These states aren’t an anomaly. A Pacific Standard investigation found that over the course of the last decade, states known for their pro-life politics have sought to shut down abortion clinics by creating and enforcing licensing regulations with unproven medical benefits—regulations that some abortion clinics simply can’t meet. The result has been a slew of lengthy legal battles, some lost, some won. And some clinics have closed rather than mounting such a fight.

Here are the key takeaways from the investigation.

Political Appointees Wield Great Power Over Abortion Clinics

Health agencies are often controlled by a political appointee named by the state’s governor. Twenty-two states have laws requiring licenses for abortion facilities, and in some states, these appointees are the last word on whether an abortion clinic is in compliance with regulations—meaning they can have direct power over even a single clinic’s fate.

In some cases, they’re ultimately responsible for the drafting of any new abortion rules or regulations. In Louisiana, such regulations spooled out into more than 1,000 separate requirements, according to one ongoing lawsuit.

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