More Abortion Restrictions Passed in 3 Years Than Past Decade, New Data Shows


Monday, January 6, 2014
January 3, 2014|6:14 pm

Recent data released by the Guttmacher Institute finds that U.S. states have passed more abortion restrictions in the past three years than they have in the past decade.

The data, released earlier this week, finds that from 2011 to 2013, states enacted a total of 205 new abortion restrictions, compared to 189 restrictions enacted from 2001 to 2010. Additionally, 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013, a number second only to 2011, when 83 anti-abortion laws were passed.

Several states, including Texas, North Dakota and Arkansas, passed laws this year that seek to illegalize abortions after a certain gestation time has passed. Ultimately, Texas passed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and Arkansas passed a law banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. North Dakota also passed a ban against abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected at approximately 6 weeks of pregnancy, but laws in both North Dakota and Arkansas were ultimately blocked from immediate implementation as they are being challenged in court.

Texas was one of the main states to gain national coverage on its abortion legislation in 2013 when Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) held a 13-hour filibuster to oppose a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet higher standards of healthcare as used at surgical care centers, and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Although Texas' Republican Gov. Rick Perry ultimately called a special session to have the bill passed, Davis' 13-hour filibuster gained her national media attention and she's now running for the state's democratic ticket in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

2013 also saw legislation seeking to crack down on the use of telemedicine to administer abortion medication, and the growing requirement of abortion clinics to meet surgical care center standards, and abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Some pro-life advocates have made a connection to the growing restrictions on abortion and the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor in Philadelphia, Pa. who ran a substandard, "house of horrors" abortion clinic where he performed late-term procedures in unsanitary conditions, including storing some fetal parts around his office after they had been removed from the womb.

In July 2013, when North Carolina's Republican–controlled Senate was working toward passing a bill that would heighten requirements for abortion clinics in the state, one pro-life group voiced its support for tougher restrictions, saying it didn't want North Carolina to become the "Gosnell of the South."

"The bill today is about protecting women's health. It's about making abortion clinics safe. We don't want to become the Gosnell of the South. We're firmly behind the bill," Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, a pro-life group, told The News & Observer back in July in reference to the bill.

Additionally, Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of federal affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, told The Washington Post earlier this year that 2013 "has been a year where the curtain has been pulled back, when people have taken another look at abortion" because of the Gosnell trial.