United States legislators enacted more abortion restrictions during 2011, 2012, and 2013 than during the previous ten years, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute. In 2013, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to women’s reproductive health and rights, half of which sought to restrict access to abortion procedures.
According to the report, 205 abortion restrictions were enacted during the past 3 years compared to just 189 enacted during the entire previous decade, from 2001 to 2010. In 2013, four states – North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina – were collectively responsible for 26 new anti-abortion laws, including some of the strictest laws enacted in the US since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
In March, Arkansas passed the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, despite a veto by Governor Mike Beebe (D). The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a ban on abortions after 12 weeks, violating the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion until such time as the fetus is viable outside of the womb (24 weeks).
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, says the timing of the onslaught of legislation aimed at slashing women’s reproductive rights is no coincidence. “The historic rise of these attacks on women’s health can be traced back to 2010, when out-of-touch Tea Party politicians picked up key seats in legislatures across the country, promising to create jobs and boost our economy, but immediately focused on ending access to safe and legal abortion and limiting women’s health care options,” Richard said in response to the Guttmacher report.
The report also states that the number of states hostile to abortion rights has increased, while the middle ground has disappeared. In 2000, the country was almost evenly divided among states supportive of abortion rights, states hostile to abortion rights, and middle-ground states, with approximately one-third of reproductive-aged women living in each section. By 2011, more than half of reproductive-aged women lived in hostile states.
During that same time period, the number of states supportive of women’s reproductive health rights dropped from 17 to 13. In 2013, the Republican war on women was highlighted in legislation like the Michigan bill to force women to undergo invasive ultrasounds, the Alabama personhood bill, several bills to ban abortions after 20 weeks, and the assertion by more than one Republican legislator that a woman’s body has a way of shutting down in order to prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”
States that were in the middle regarding abortion rights in 2000, meaning they had 2 to 3 major abortion restrictions, but have now moved to being hostile to abortion rights (4 to 10 major restrictions) include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Only a handful of states adopted measures to expand reproductive health rights for women. In California, lawmakers enacted the first new state law in 7 years to expand access to abortion services. And 5 states, including Colorado, adopted measures to expand access to sex education and emergency contraception.
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a comprehensive package of women’s health laws. According to Think Progress, the agenda includes provisions for workplace protections for pregnant women and nursing mothers, extended coverage for breast and cervical cancer screenings, protection for victims of domestic violence, and the creation of a buffer zone around abortion clinics to prevent harassment, among others.