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States Slow Pace of Antiabortion-Rights Legislation, But Restrictions Up Overall, Guttmacher Report Shows

States Slow Pace of Antiabortion-Rights Legislation, But Restrictions Up Overall, Guttmacher Report Shows

July 9, 2014 — States passed fewer abortion restrictions in the first half of this year compared with the same time period in any of the past three years, but state laws restricting abortion access continue to vastly outnumber those expanding access, according to a report released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, Vox reports (Kliff, Vox, 7/8).

According to the report, 13 states passed 21 abortion restrictions in the first half of 2014, about half of the number of restrictions passed during the same time period last year and nearly one-fourth of the number passed in the first half of 2011 (Chokshi, "GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).

However, Guttmacher researchers said part of the shift is cyclical, as some state legislatures had shorter sessions than past years because of the midterm election and others states that heavily restrict abortion rights, such as Texas, do not hold legislative sessions in even-numbered years (Viebeck, The Hill, 7/8). In addition, researchers noted that legislatures focused more on other health care issues this year, which shifted the focus away from abortion-related legislation (Novack, National Journal, 7/8).

New Abortion Restrictions

The laws enacted this year include measures in Arizona and Indiana granting state health agencies the ability to conduct unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, while Georgia and Indiana limited abortion coverage in health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces. Mississippi banned abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, Oklahoma restricted access to medication abortion and South Dakota banned abortions based on the sex of the fetus.

Among other changes, states passed abortion restrictions related to mandatory counseling, Medicaid funding, gestational limits, parental consent, mandatory delay periods and provider refusal ("GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).

Overall, states have passed 226 new abortion restrictions since 2011 (Vox, 7/8). The number of states with Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws has increased to 26, up from 11 in 2000. TRAP laws impose restrictions on abortion providers, such as licensing rules or requiring physicians to have hospital admitting privileges, with the aim of forcing clinics to close for noncompliance, according to Guttmacher ("GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).

According to the report, "59 percent of women of reproductive age live in a state that has enacted targeted regulation of abortion providers" (The Hill, 7/8).

Laws Protecting Reproductive Health Access

So far this year, the report found that three states have increased access to abortion services. Utah waived a mandatory counseling requirement for women seeking the procedure because of fetal impairment. Meanwhile, Vermont took a law off the books from before Roe v. Wade that banned abortion, while New Hampshire enacted a "buffer zone" law, although the Supreme Court's recent ruling on a similar measure could put it in jeopardy, according to the Washington Post's "GovBeat."

In addition, Connecticut; Maryland; New Mexico; South Carolina; and Washington, D.C., expanded access to other reproductive health services ("GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).