The anti-abortion movement has long claimed that the aim of passing new abortion clinic regulations is to protect women's health and safety. But a leader in that movement admitted on Sunday the real motivation behind those laws is to block women's access to abortion.
In a heated exchange on ABC's "This Week," National Right to Life President Carol Tobias defended a wave of state laws requiring abortion clinics to meet the same physical building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, including specific parking lot designs, hallway widths and ventilation systems. She said clinics are shutting down because "they don't want to meet the minimum of safety standards."
But when host Martha Raddatz pointed out that the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have said the regulations are not necessary for patient safety, Tobias strayed from the anti-abortion movement's usual talking points.
"But it's not up to the state, or at least it shouldn't be up to the state, to make it easier for women to kill their unborn children," Tobias said.
Asked directly whether all the new abortion restrictions are about restricting access to abortion or about women's safety, Tobias said, "It's about both."
"We want to protect unborn children from death," Tobias said. "We want to protect the women who are going to be harmed by abortion. It might not be an immediate physical reaction. There are long-term physical consequences, long-term mental and emotional consequences to abortion. This is about protecting women and children."
Numerous medical studies have found that abortion is an extremely safe procedure -- significantly safer than childbirth. Women's health advocates argue that shutting down abortion clinics is the bigger threat to women's safety, because those women could either seek illegal, unsafe providers, or have to wait much later into their pregnancies to have the procedure.
Federal judges in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have sided with abortion-rights advocates this summer and blocked or struck down laws that would have forced most or all of the clinics in those states to shut down. Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his ruling against the Texas law on Friday that the state's claim about protecting women's safety is "disingenuous."
"If the State’s true purpose in enacting the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement is to protect the health and safety of Texas women who seek abortions, it is disingenuous and incompatible with that goal to argue that Texas women can seek abortion care in a state with lesser regulations," he wrote. "If, however, the State’s underlying purpose in enacting the requirement was to reduce or eliminate abortion in parts or all of Texas, the State’s position is perfectly congruent with such a goal."