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Antiabortion-Rights Measures Add Up To Limit Access

Antiabortion-Rights Measures Add Up To Limit Access

June 15, 2015 — State laws that have incrementally restricted access to abortion are accumulating, making the procedure nearly inaccessible in some states, the Los Angeles Times reports.

States Imposing More Abortion Restrictions

For example, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states have implemented mandatory delays that require women to wait a specific amount of time between an initial consultation and an abortion. At least five states have implemented or lengthened such delays since April, including Arkansas (Act 1086), Florida (HB 633), North Carolina (HB 465), Oklahoma (HB 1409) and Tennessee (SB 1222).

Meanwhile, several states have also passed procedural restrictions. For example, Kansas (SB 95) and Oklahoma (HB 1721) have both prohibited a common surgical method for second-trimester abortions. Separately, Arkansas has passed about six new abortion restrictions, including a law lengthening its mandatory delay, a parental involvement measure (HB 1424) and a law (Act 1086) that requires physicians to tell patients medically inaccurate information about medication abortion, among others.

Supreme Court Could Weigh In

According to the Times, the Supreme Court is the "backdrop" for the growing number of restrictions, as the high court will soon decide whether to weigh in significantly on abortion access for the first time since 1992 (La Ganga, Los Angeles Times, 6/13).

The high court today announced that it would not review a case that blocked parts of a North Carolina ultrasound law (SL 2011-405). However, it has not yet stated whether it will consider another case involving an admitting privileges requirement (HB 1390) in Mississippi that, if allowed to take effect, would shut down the state's sole abortion clinic (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/15).


Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, "It is a culmination of the wave of restrictions of the past three years." She added, "You see one type of restriction following another, following another. When you put them all together, the result is a closing-off of access."

Similarly, Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, said the strategy of such restrictions is similar to "putting up a wall brick by brick by brick, slowly, so no one notices." For example, she cited Arkansas' new laws and noted that while each individual abortion restriction might not spark concern, when considered all together, "it becomes very clear what the state is trying to do -- prevent a woman who's decided to have an abortion from actually getting one."

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said Arkansas "is an example of a state that has changed access" to abortion. She noted that "similar dramatic changes" have occurred "in places like Kansas, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and North Carolina."

Overall, Nash said abortion access "in some ways it looks like what we saw before" Roe vs. Wade. "What you're seeing is access maintained for the most part along the West Coast and in the Northeast, but real incursions in access in the South and middle of the country," she said (Los Angeles Times, 6/13).