States Enacted 95 New Reproductive Rights Restrictions In Just 6 Months


The Guttmacher Institute issued a new report that highlights the singular focus conservative lawmakers have on restricting reproductive rights. And while there are some glimmers of hope in the latest figures, there’s still plenty of reason for women’s health advocates to be concerned.

In the first half of 2012, states enacted 95 new provisions related to reproductive health and rights, including 39 new restrictions on access to abortion. Although this is significantly lower than the record-breaking 80 restrictions that had been enacted by this point in 2011, it is nonetheless a higher number of restrictions than in any year prior to 2011. Most of the 39 new restrictions have been enacted in states that are generally hostile to abortion. For example, 14 of the new restrictions have been enacted in just three states—Arizona, Louisiana and South Dakota—that already had at least five such restrictions on the books. Fully 55% of U.S. women of reproductive age now live in one of the 26 states considered hostile to abortion rights.

While this year is shaping up to be similar to last year in terms of the number of abortion restrictions that have either been introduced or approved by a state legislative chamber, what distinguishes 2012 from 2011, is that a lower proportion of the restrictions that were passed by one legislative body have become law. So far 30% of the abortion restrictions passed by one chamber this year have been enacted, a significantly lower proportion than the 51% that had been signed into law by this point in 2011.

According to the Guttmacher Institute there are several reasons for this trend, including that election-year legislative sessions tend to be shorter and more focused on bread-and-butter—rather than social—issues. Additionally, legislatures in some states, including New Hampshire and Indiana, appear to be in near-total gridlock and anti-abortion measures are doing nothing to ease that gridlock.

At the same time, public pushback appears to have been successful in blocking action on some of the more extreme abortion restrictions. For example, the outcry against a measure that would have required a woman to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to an abortion in Virginia is widely seen as having blunted the momentum behind similar provisions in Alabama, Idaho and Pennsylvania. Similarly, last November’s defeat of a constitutional amendment in Mississippi that would have conferred personhood at fertilization appears to have helped derail similar provisions in Ohio and Oklahoma in 2012.

Nonetheless, three states have limited access to medication abortion, bringing to eight the number of states restricting access to the procedure. Three states have enacted unconstitutional  measures that ban abortion prior to fetal viability, either at 18 or 20 weeks postfertilization (which is the equivalent of 20 or 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period), bringing to nine the number of states that have barred abortion after this point. In addition, four states have moved to limit coverage of abortion in the health exchanges that will be established as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, bringing to 20 the number of states limiting abortion coverage in the exchanges.

Over the past six months, states also considered requiring abortion counseling and extended delays for women seeking an abortion. In the most extreme example, Utah in April became the first state to require that a woman seeking an abortion wait 72 hours between obtaining counseling and having the procedure; a similar measure was enacted in South Dakota in 2011, but was never implemented because of a legal challenge. Twenty-five other states have a waiting period, generally requiring that the woman wait 24 hours.

Also this year, two states adopted measures attempting to use the fetal heartbeat as a way to discourage a woman from seeking an abortion. A new law in Oklahoma requires providers to offer a woman the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed at or after eight weeks’ postfertilization (or 10 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period). A new law in Louisiana requires providers to make the heartbeat audible when a woman is seeking an abortion; this requirement necessitates performing a transvaginal ultrasound for abortions performed in the first eight weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period.

Finally, Arizona and South Dakota adopted measures requiring counseling on the negative mental health consequences of abortion, even though this connection has been widely discredited by mental health experts; this brings to nine the number of states requiring counseling to include unsubstantiated information on the mental health impact of having an abortion. Arizona also enacted a provision that would require a woman seeking an abortion because of a fatal fetal impairment to be given information on the availability of fetal hospice services to provide assistance in carrying the pregnancy to term; Minnesota is the only other state with such a requirement.

Family Planning Funding

Legislatures are not simply targeting abortion rights for restrictions. Despite continuing state budget constraints and the widespread attacks on family planning funding in 2011, no state has singled out family planning funding for draconian cuts so far this year.

States also seem to be backing away from efforts to defund family planning providers. In 2011, eight states moved to disqualify at least some family planning providers from receipt of state family planning funds; so far this year, only three states (Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina) have done so. A court has blocked enforcement of the Kansas measure.

In an unequivocal gain for reproductive health, five states have moved to expand eligibility for family planning services under Medicaid. Indiana and Montana became the newest states to adopt a broad expansion, bringing the number of states with income-based expansions to 26. Oregon and Washington, which have long-standing Medicaid family planning expansions, increased the income ceilings under their programs from 200% of the federal poverty line to 250%. And the Vermont legislature adopted a measure in March calling on the state to apply for federal approval for an expansion.

Texas stands in sharp contrast to the encouraging developments in other states. A 2011 Texas law would have prohibited Planned Parenthood affiliates from participating in the state’s long-standing Medicaid family planning expansion. In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed the state that enforcing the ban would violate federal Medicaid requirements. In response, Texas announced that it would instead terminate the federal-state program and establish a state-only effort that would not reimburse Planned Parenthood affiliates for the care they provide. Litigation filed by Planned Parenthood is pending.

Sex Education

Finally, even comprehensive sex education is under attack. From 2007 through 2010, four states passed legislation related to sex education; in each case, the new law aimed at expanding access to comprehensive and medically accurate programs. That trend began to reverse in 2011, when Mississippi and South Dakota adopted measures changing their policies to promote abstinence-until-marriage education.

So far this year, Wisconsin and Tennessee have adopted measures promoting abstinence-until-marriage education. In April, Wisconsin rolled back its 2010 law mandating comprehensive sex education and substituted a measure requiring information about the benefits of abstinence until marriage; the 2012 law does not even identify discussion of contraception as a recommended topic. For its part, Tennessee amended its law to require that any sex education in the state “exclusively and emphatically” teach abstinence and provide instruction on the consequences of “nonmarital” sex.

When taken collectively these restrictions paint a bleak picture of the state of women’s health care and family planning services. These are not simple, isolated and harmless attacks. Nor are they “distractions.” These are very real attempts to prevent women from achieving full independence and autonomy and to punish those that strive for as much.


Related Stories:

Over 30 Anti-Choice Measures Pass In May

Indiana Anti-Abortion Law Blocked Again

Mississippi Abortion Clinic Stays Open For Now


Photo from infowidget via flickr.


Leia P.
Leia P.6 years ago

each and every one of us need to protest every single day. even if it takes writing to the newspapers every single week

Dan B.
Dan Brook6 years ago

Etch-a-Sketch Rmoney Lyin' Ryan = of, by, and for the rich white men.

The regressive Republican Party of No is obstructionist, mean-spirited, thuggish, religiously fanatical, scientifically ignorant, corrupt, hypocritical, untrustworthy, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, evolution and global warming denying, oily, anti-environment, anti-health, anti-consumer, anti-choice, anti-birth control, anti-education, anti-student loans, anti-equal pay, anti-99%, pro-banks, pro-big corporations, pro-voter suppression, union busting, Medicare mashing and Social Security slashing, fiscally irresponsible, misleading, authoritarian, selfish, greedy, out-of-touch, dishonest, lacking compassion, warmongering, and otherwise dangerous.

Don't make a Mittstake. NEVER vote for Republicans!

Leanne B.
Leanne B6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

alex l.
alex l6 years ago

Steve R - Romney's "free stuff" comment was made by a man who got $ 77 000 free dollars last year for his pet horse.
please, spare me that attempt to rationalize.

and no Steve, reproductive rights don't mean "abortion rights" - they mean reproductive rights. women are the only humans who grown entire other human beings inside of themselves, and suffer the long term physical consequences of doing it. they need access to birth control, health clinics and doctor care. otherwise, they can't control when they get pregnant.
i suspect someone like you would take away those rights, and then complain that women were going around getting pregnant "on purpose" or some other idiocy.

if you want to control the population, if you want to have fewer people on welfare, get the birth control out there, and get your hands out of other people's Reproductive Rights. 'cause they are rights Steve, whether you like that or not.

Duane B.
.6 years ago

In the relative scheme of things, you would think our government would be concentrating on more pressing issues during this time of economic crisis!

stewart s.
stewart s6 years ago

What about the issues of jobs creation, hunger, homelessness, poverty, the suffering environment,declining wildlife, and many other far more important problems that should be addressed? All the Rethuglicans want to do is control women as breeding machines, then without any laws in place to control the ever-growing populaton, they are forcing the human race to breeding itself to extinction, taking along all other living things.Please help save the planet by voting
ALL right -wing Repukes out of office, starting with the Tea Party Repuke freshmen in the House of Rep.
Obama in 2012!!

DaretoCare S.

Richard B (and others who have expressed their concern for the unborn) I DO understand and even respect what you are expressing. However, I think it comes down to the following: You do not know me. I do not know you. We are individuals - living separate and different lives. Our experiences and our circumstances are different. We are individuals. Separate. Your idea of morality may or may not have any place in my reality. Your beliefs may or may not be mine, but that is all right because we are autonomous people. Those are all hard facts and I am going to make the assumption that nobody will or can disagree with what I have written so far .. Since I have established (beyond doubt I think) the concept of “you and I” as separate people, I would like to ask the following: What makes you think that you are both capable and have the right to dictate how I chose to live my life? What gives you or anybody else the right to dictate to me (a stranger) my actions? Who decided that you should and could live more than your own life? I do not need strangers dictating the intimate decisions of my own life – these are matters which are between me, my partner, my doctor (if needed) and my own morality. I (we) do not need or desire your input. You get to live your own life – that’s it – you do not get to dictate how I will chose to live mine. Strange that some of you are so opposed to government interference in your own lives via such things as health care and y

Amanda M.
Amanda M6 years ago

Women are NOT, I repeat, NOT brood mares or livestock! We are thinking, breathing, VOTING human beings who deserve to have control over our own bodies and lives! We are MORE than just uteruses and deserve to be treated with the respect we deserve! You got that, Rethuglican anti-choice Religious Reich? This is the 21st century-stop trying to turn back the clock and get over yourselves already!

Lauren B.

This is really scary! Where are women voters?

Berny p.
berny p6 years ago

Women are not breeding stock.

Reproductive rights give women some measure of control over what happens to they and their bodies, and their futures.