States Continue Push for Abortion Restrictions, Using Bills and Ballot Measures

April 26, 2012 — Although state abortion restrictions this year have not reached the record-setting levels of 2011, dozens of measures are pending in state legislatures or working their way to the ballot, USA Today reports.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is tracking 235 abortion-related bills in legislatures throughout the country. So far this year, 12 bills that would restrict abortion rights have become law, according to the group.

The bills take several approaches. For example, some would impose new restrictions on when women can obtain abortion care, while others target insurance coverage of abortion or block funding to Planned Parenthood, according to USA Today.

Last year, 24 state legislatures passed a record 92 laws restricting abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The push for abortion restrictions can be tied to the 2010 election, when conservatives gained majorities in many state governments. "We are still feeling the ramifications of the 2010 election and what happened in 2011," Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for Guttmacher, said.

Abortion-rights advocates are pushing back by challenging the laws in court. Currently, there are 10 major court cases challenging some of the new laws in seven states, but the cases could take up to four or five years to resolve, Nash said.

Abortion Opponents Divided on Strategy, Some Opt for Ballot Measures

Abortion-rights opponents nationwide are split on how best to accomplish their goals. Some think legislative measures and court battles are the best approach, while others are pushing for "personhood" amendments on state ballots, according to USA Today.

For example, Ohio Right to Life is urging state legislators to end funding to Planned Parenthood and ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Meanwhile, an Ohio physician, Patrick Johnston, is trying to add a personhood amendment to the November ballot without Ohio Right to Life's help.

Personhood advocates also are gathering signatures in attempts to put measures on ballots in Colorado, Montana, Nevada and Oklahoma, according to Keith Mason, president of Colorado-based Personhood USA, which is helping local ballot initiative efforts. Mason said he is not discouraged by the defeat of a personhood amendment in Mississippi last fall (Raasch, USA Today, 4/25).