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Admitting privileges laws do not appear to benefit abortion patients

Between 2011 and 2014, 9 U.S. states passed laws requiring that physicians who provide abortion care obtain hospital admitting privileges. These laws require abortion-providing physicians to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital, often within a specified distance from the clinic.

We conducted a case series study to examine how, in the event that hospital care is necessary, women presenting for abortion were transferred or referred to emergency departments. We also assessed whether the process changed after clinics obtained admitting privileges. We found that an abortion provider having admitting privileges doesn’t appear to change how abortion patients receive hospital care.

We found that few patients needed to be transferred to the hospital by ambulance. In addition, patients often sought follow-up care after they had returned home and in these cases admitting privileges do not apply.  In such cases patients often go to their closest emergency department and not the hospital at which the abortion provider has admitting privileges. If abortion providers determine there is a problem that requires hospital care when the patient first presents for abortion care, clinics already have protocols in place for communicating with hospitals. The majority of patients referred to hospitals were due to ectopic pregnancy or have other health risks.

For more on this study, “Admitting privileges and hospital-based care after presenting for abortion: A retrospective case series,” visit the journal Health Services Research.

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