States Have Actually Passed Fewer Abortion Restrictions This Year

But more than 200 restrictions have been enacted in the last three and a half years.

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 22: A pro-life activist holds a sign as she participates in the annual 'March for Life' event January 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. The event was to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court abortion ruling. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
July 8, 2014, 10:05 a.m.

Is the “War on Wo­men” com­ing to a cease-fire?

Un­likely. But ac­cord­ing to a new re­port, the num­ber of abor­tion re­stric­tions en­acted by states is de­clin­ing.

Few­er laws lim­it­ing abor­tion ac­cess were passed in the first half of 2014 than by this point in any of the pre­vi­ous three years, ac­cord­ing to new data from the Guttmach­er In­sti­tute re­leased Tues­day.

Thir­teen states have passed a total of 21 abor­tion re­stric­tions so far this year, says the re­pro­duct­ive-health non­profit. This is about half the num­ber passed by this time last year, and one-quarter of the num­ber passed by this time in 2011.

These laws in­clude re­quire­ments that doc­tors have ad­mit­ting priv­ileges at nearby hos­pit­als, man­dated wait­ing peri­ods, bans on abor­tion after a cer­tain num­ber of weeks, and lim­its on med­ic­a­tion abor­tion. Chal­lenges to these re­stric­tions are on­go­ing in sev­er­al states.

Yet the num­ber of re­stric­tions still vastly out­paces the num­ber of abor­tion pro­tec­tions passed. Three states have moved to pro­tect abor­tion ac­cess, while four states and the Dis­trict of Columbia have worked to in­crease ac­cess to oth­er re­pro­duct­ive health ser­vices.

This year’s num­bers do not ne­ces­sar­ily in­dic­ate a change in sen­ti­ment or strategy. Guttmach­er at­trib­utes the de­cline largely to cyc­lic­al trends: States his­tor­ic­ally have a short­er le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion dur­ing elec­tion years, and some of the states that have been most act­ive on abor­tion le­gis­la­tion are not in ses­sion dur­ing even years, in­clud­ing Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas. Oth­er health care is­sues have also moved to the fore­front in state le­gis­latures, per­haps ec­lipsing the fo­cus on abor­tion is­sues.

The sev­er­al-year de­cline could in­dic­ate the surge of abor­tion re­stric­tions is com­ing to a close, though this could be be­cause so many have already been en­acted. A total of 226 state abor­tion re­stric­tions have been passed since 2011.

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