States Pass 43 Antiabortion Measures in First Half of Year, With Focus on Clinic Restrictions

July 10, 2013 — States in the first half of this year enacted 43 provisions restricting abortion, matching the total number of such measures passed in all of 2012, according to a report published this week by the Guttmacher Institute, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 7/8).

The 43 restrictions passed this year are a sharp drop from the 80 enacted in the first half of 2011 but slightly higher than the number passed midway through 2012. A few years ago, states typically passed about a dozen abortion restrictions annually, according to the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 7/9).

TRAP Laws Gain Prominence

The Times notes that a flashpoint this year is measures known as TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, which contain regulations "that in effect would force many -- if not all -- abortion clinics in a state to shut down" (Washington Times, 7/8).

Of the 17 states that have passed abortion restrictions this year, five enacted regulations targeting abortion clinics. In addition, four states prohibited the use of telemedicine in abortion care, while two states restricted abortion coverage in health plans that will be sold through their health insurance marketplaces ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 7/9).

Focus on Hospital Ties

Several states' TRAP measures include requirements that physicians who provide abortions obtain hospital admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. According to the Guttmacher report, a total of seven states have enacted laws requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, although two of those measures are tied up in legal challenges and another two have not yet taken effect.

Opponents of abortion rights contend that increasing regulation of abortion clinics will make the procedure safer. Many cite the case of illegal abortion provider Kermit Gosnell as a reason for increasing restrictions on all abortion providers.

Abortion-rights supporters argue that the requirements will end abortion access in many areas because many clinics cannot obtain the admitting privileges and will have to close. In North Dakota and Mississippi, the states' sole abortion clinics are fighting to stay open after lawmakers enacted such laws. Nationwide, 87% of U.S. counties do not have a single doctor, hospital or clinic that offers abortion services, according to Guttmacher (Washington Times, 7/8).