Women's Health Issues
INTRODUCTION: Abortion is a common and safe procedure in the United States, the regulation of which varies by state. Since 2011, hundreds of state-level abortion restrictions have been enacted by legislatures across the country. This study describes the effects of two such regulations enacted in 2011 in Arizona, (A.R.S.) 36-2153 and 36-2155, that imposed a 24-hour waiting period requiring two separate in-person clinic visits before obtaining an abortion and banned advanced practice clinicians such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives from inducing medication abortions by prescribing mifepristone. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a pre-post study to describe the effect of Arizona's scope of practice law on abortion provision by county. Using publicly available data, we compared patterns of abortion provision in 2009 and 2010 (before the laws) with 2012 and 2013. Our primary objective was to compare the proportion of abortions performed with medication by prescription of mifepristone (versus abortions performed surgically, known as aspiration abortions) before and after the laws were enacted. Our secondary objectives were to report the number of counties that lost an abortion provider and the change in the proportion of abortions performed before 14 weeks' gestation of pregnancy after the enactment of the laws. RESULTS: After enactment of the laws, the proportion of Arizona's 15 counties with abortion clinics decreased from 33% to 13%. Over this time, the proportion of abortions performed with medication in Arizona decreased by 17.4% (95% CI, 16.6%-18.3%; p = .0002), from 47.6% to 30.2%. Similarly, the proportion of abortions performed before 14 weeks' gestation in Arizona decreased by 3.3% (95% CI, 2.8%-3.8%; p = .0002) after the enactment of these laws. DISCUSSION: The proportion of abortions performed with medication and the proportion of abortion performed before 14 weeks' gestation in Arizona were negatively affected by the enactment of these laws. These findings are not explained by national temporal trends in abortion, because the proportion of abortions performed with medication increased and early abortions remained stable over the same time period in the United States as a whole. CONCLUSIONS: Proponents of laws restricting the provision of abortion such as these claim to improve the safety of abortion, but they actually seem to decrease access to abortion, as defined by the number of counties with abortion providers, and subsequently lead to delays in abortion. These data should inform future policies by providing an example of how such laws affect women seeking abortion.