National Partnership for Women & Families

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State-Level Abortion Restrictions on the Rise

State-Level Abortion Restrictions on the Rise

September 16, 2015 — In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to access abortion, largely because of state-level restrictions enacted across the country, analysts say, according to U.S. News & World Report.

More than 280 abortion restrictions have been signed into law at the state level since 2011, ranging from mandatory delays before an abortion to requirements that clinics meet stringent building standards. Conservative legislators in several states, including Texas and Tennessee, have passed laws that have closed many reproductive health clinics. At the federal level, some conservative lawmakers currently are trying to defund Planned Parenthood.

Overall, according to the Guttmacher Institute's state-by-state index, a majority of states are considered either hostile or severely hostile to abortion. Elizabeth Nash, senior states' issues associate at Guttmacher, said, "In 2000, when we first did this, we had 13 states considered hostile. That meant they had at least four of these types of restrictions. We thought, 'A quarter of the states -- that's a lot.' Now, we're looking at a completely different landscape."

She added, "Between 2011 and today we've have 287 abortion restrictions enacted" in the states and, "because so many restrictions have become law, there are whole swaths of the country" where abortion is effectively outlawed.

Experts note that state-level abortion restrictions have proliferated in large part because of a strategy by the antiabortion-rights group Americans United for Life, which provides template legislation for state lawmakers who oppose abortion rights. According to Guttmacher, states this year have passed 51 abortion restrictions.

Nash said the restrictions "reshap[e] how clinics provide abortion services and how women access them." She explained that the legislation has "made it difficult to keep the clinic doors open," with the result that women frequently have to travel either within their state or across state lines to access abortion care.

Nash pointed out that one abortion-rights organization called Fund Texas Choice helps women seeking abortion care in Texas -- where almost half of the clinics in the state have closed since 2011 -- pay for the cost of transportation rather than for the procedure itself. "That says a lot about what access looks like in Texas," Nash said (Williams, U.S. News & World Report, 9/14).