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Conservative Legislatures Pushing 'Surge' of Antiabortion-Rights Legislation

May 11, 2015 — Conservative state lawmakers throughout the U.S. this year have passed "a surge of bills ... that make it harder for women to have abortions," the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, lawmakers in 45 states have proposed more than 300 antiabortion-rights measures and 11 states have approved 37 new abortion restrictions so far in 2015, all as "part of a strategy accelerated by abortion opponents in 2011."

Overall, according to Americans United for Life, more than 200 antiabortion-rights measures have been signed into law over the past four years. The Times reports that AUL this year has drafted 50 pieces of "model legislation" that it has distributed across the nation, including bills that would ban abortion at a certain point during pregnancy, impose hospital admitting privileges requirements on clinic physicians and restrict medication abortion.

Surge of Antiabortion-Rights Legislation

The Times reports that Arkansas has "led the nation with six new abortion-related laws," including parental involvement legislation (Act 934), restrictions on medication abortion (Act 139, Act 577), and legislation (Act 1086) that extends mandatory delay and biased counseling requirements. Further, Arkansas and Arizona (SB 1318) both enacted measures that require physicians to tell patients the medically unproven claim that medication abortion can be reversed.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks' gestation, while lawmakers in Kansas (SB 95) and Oklahoma (HB 1721) passed measures to ban certain types of abortion and other states enacted telemedicine abortion bans. Further, Oklahoma's governor earlier this month signed a bill (HB 1409) into law that will extend the state's mandatory delay period before an abortion to 72 hours, while Florida lawmakers passed a similar 24-hour mandatory delay measure (HB 633).

According to the Times, still other states have enacted laws that specifically target abortion clinics. For example, some states have passed legislation that requires abortion clinics to dispose of fetal remains in a costly manner and requires physicians providing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Laws' Effects

According to the Times, antiabortion-rights laws already have begun to have an effect in states like Texas, where the number of abortion clinics in the state fell by 50% after strict regulations for abortion clinics were implemented.

Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia Law School's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, said, "State legislatures are restricting how doctors provide medical care related to abortion, where doctors can provide that care, what doctors can say to patients when they provide that care and more."

Meanwhile, speaking about the Florida bill, Christopher Estes -- chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast -- said, "It adds a substantial burden to women's lives, doubles the amount of time they have to take off work, doubles the child care required, doubles the distance traveled. It really adds time and expense with no medical justification whatsoever."

Separately, Dian Alarcón, a Florida-based field organizer at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said the Florida measure could spur women to seek out illegal abortions.

Abortion-Rights Supporters Pledge To Fight Back

However, abortion-rights supporters are working to fight back against the antiabortion-rights laws.

For example, Michelle Richardson, director of public policy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said in reference to the Florida measure that her organization will "make the policy arguments about protecting a woman's right to choose and that hurdles are not in her best interest." She added, "The [measure] is just out of hope that it will make it so difficult to have [an] abortion that she won't do it" (Robles, New York Times, 5/8).