April 10, 2014 — Although state lawmakers have continued with an onslaught of antiabortion-rights bills this year, a record number of states are considering measures aimed at protecting abortion rights and access, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the Christian Science Monitor's "DC Decoder" reports.
According to the report, 38 states in the first quarter of 2014 introduced 303 provisions designed to restrict abortion access. During the same time period, more than a dozen states introduced 64 measures that would expand or protect abortion access, a higher number than in any one year over the last 25 years, the report said.
Legislation Protecting, Expanding Abortion Access
So far this year, two states have enacted legislation protecting or expanding abortion access. Vermont repealed a law that banned abortion, which predated the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, while Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed into law a measure that waives the state's mandatory pre-abortion counseling and ultrasound when a women's health or life is in danger or the fetus has severe anomalies.
Meanwhile, in three states, at least one chamber of the legislature has passed legislation supporting abortion rights. New Hampshire is considering a measure (SB 319) that would impose a 25-foot, no-protest "buffer zone" around reproductive health clinics, while New York is considering a bill that would legalize abortion through 24 weeks of pregnancy or if a woman's life or health is in danger. A bill (HB 2148) in Washington would require state insurance plans to cover abortion if they offer maternity coverage.
According to "DC Decoder," the wave of such legislation was kicked off last year, when two states -- California and Colorado -- became the first to pass pro-abortion-rights measures since 2006. California enacted a measure (AB 154) that allows nurse practitioners to perform first-trimester abortions, while Colorado repealed an abortion ban that predated Roe.
Majority of States Focused on Antiabortion-Rights Legislation
Despite pushback from abortion-rights supporters, the report found that the majority of states are still passing more antiabortion-rights legislation overall. So far this year, two states have passed laws that restrict abortion: Indiana, which banned most abortion coverage in private health plans, and South Dakota, which banned abortions based on the sex of the fetus.
Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at Guttmacher and co-author on the report, said that the increase in legislation aimed at protecting or expanding abortion access is "the result of several years of being pummeled by abortion opponents." According to "DC Decoder," in 2013, 22 states enacted 70 antiabortion-rights measures, following 43 such measures in 2012 and 92 in 2011.
Nash noted that most of the introduced legislation that supports abortion access "won't see the light of day, but they certainly signal that people have had enough of these abortion restrictions" (Feldmann, "DC Decoder," Christian Science Monitor, 4/9).