ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
To talk about how Missouri's fight over abortion fits into the larger national picture, NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now. She has been covering the abortion debate across the country.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi there.
SHAPIRO: How unusual is what is happening in Missouri? How close are other states to being in the same situation?
MCCAMMON: Well, abortion is still legal in all 50 states, Ari, but that does not mean it's accessible or even available. Right now Missouri is one of six states with only one clinic, so abortion rights advocates say any of those six states could find itself in a similar situation. And we should note a couple of hospitals in Missouri could still provide abortions in rare situations like medical emergencies. But this clinic is the only option in the state for most women seeking abortions.
SHAPIRO: These clinics have been closing in a number of states. Explain why.
MCCAMMON: Right. A lot of it does come down to laws and regulations like those in Missouri that make it hard for clinics to stay open. Activists say it's a strategy - an intentional strategy by anti-abortion rights groups. And it's happening along with efforts we've seen to ban abortion outright. Planned Parenthood says something like 300 abortion restrictions have been introduced in state legislatures this year. And more than half of those involved regulating clinics and doctors, things like hospital-admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions or transportation agreements with local hospitals in case of an emergency. Medical groups say many of these regulations are excessive and unnecessary.
SHAPIRO: What do groups that oppose abortion say about these new regulations? How are they reacting to them?
MCCAMMON: Right. Well, no surprise, they're pleased to see that this facility in Missouri might have to stop performing abortions. I heard from Marjorie Dannenfelser with the anti-abortion rights group the Susan B. Anthony List. She said in a statement that this would be good news for health and safety, as she put it. And she says that there is growing momentum around the country to restrict abortion.
SHAPIRO: There's been a lot of speculation about how the Supreme Court might weigh in on laws that ban specific abortion procedures or ban the procedure at certain stages. What does the Supreme Court said about these other kinds of restrictions on clinics and doctors who perform abortions?
MCCAMMON: So, yeah, the Supreme Court has weighed in on this. About three years ago, there was a case from Texas called the Whole Woman's Health case. It was a Texas law that required hospital-admitting privileges for doctors and surgical facilities at clinics that provide abortions. In that decision, the court said, basically, that states cannot impose these kinds of health regulations without demonstrating that they're medically necessary.
Groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say the regulations that could force Missouri's last clinic to stop offering abortions are unnecessary and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. There's another case before the Supreme Court from Louisiana that looks at similar issues, so I'd expect to hear more about this, Ari, along with those - the debate over banning abortion outright.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thanks, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
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