It’s been obvious for a while to anyone really paying attention that the antichoice movement has made a major shift towards a strategy of restricting abortion by waging war on providers. It has been cleverly disguised by the packaging of provider-harassment laws with showier and more popular provisions cracking down on relatively rare late-term abortions. But this “supply-side” approach is really beginning to succeed in certain parts of the country, as Robin Marty explains at Daily Beast today:

There is a nearly 1,200-mile-wide desert of abortion providers stretching from the western boarder of Idaho to the eastern boarders of North and South Dakota. Across this five-state expanse, the total number of cities that offer any form of abortion access can be counted on just two hands. Montana used to be an oasis in that abortion desert, with four clinics in four different cities offering both surgical and medication abortion options, but not anymore.

Last month, an apparent pro-life vandal destroyed the abortion clinic in Kalispell, Montana. Now, the state has just two clinics providing surgical abortions, in Billings and Missoula. This crisis of access affects not just Montana residents but thousands of women in neighboring states, too.

Thanks to recent state legislation, this “abortion-free zone” is on the brink of expanding unless judges stop it:

[B]etween 2010 and 2013, one in 10 clinics closed across the country—and that was before Texas’s HB 2 began to go into effect, which will close another 20. For states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, the only thing standing between losing most or all of their clinics are court orders blocking bills from being enforced.

Perhaps when we talk about abortion being legal in this country, we ought to add the modifier “in theory.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.