Over the past three years, state legislatures enacted a staggering 205 restrictions on reproductive rights, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. That figure, spurred by record-breaking numbers of restrictions each year since 2011, already exceeds the number of restrictions that were enacted during the entire previous decade. Between 2001 and 2010, states passed just 189 abortion restrictions:
CREDIT: Guttmacher Institute
Ninety two abortion restrictions were passed in 2011, the year that still tops the chart. That number dipped to 42 provisions in 2012, which was the second-highest number of new restrictions at the time. 2013 continued the trend that kicked off in 2011, climbing back up to 70 anti-choice provisions.
As Guttmacher researchers point out, the dramatic increase between 2012 and 2013 was mainly driven by just a handful of states that had a particular focus on restricting access to abortion this past year: North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina. None of those states enacted any abortion restrictions in 2012 (the first two didn’t have a legislative session, and the last two had more moderate lawmakers back then). But in 2013, they were collectively responsible for 26 of the new anti-abortion provisions — including some of the harshest laws the country has seen since Roe v. Wade — despite massive public outcry against them.
According to Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the timing of the recent legislative onslaught is no coincidence. “The historic rise of these attacks on women’s health can be traced back to 2010, when out-of-touch Tea Party politicians picked up key seats in legislatures across the country, promising to create jobs and boost our economy — but immediately focused on ending access to safe and legal abortion and limiting women’s health care options,” Richards said in a statement in response to Guttmacher’s new data.
That political landscape has had dramatic consequences for women living in states across the country. Back in 2000, Guttmacher defined 13 states as “hostile” to abortion rights because they had at least four major abortion restrictions on the books, and about 31 percent of U.S. women of reproductive age lived in those places. By 2013, the number of hostile states swelled to 27 states — and now, over half of women in need of reproductive health care live in a place where they will likely struggle to terminate a pregnancy.
The number of states that Guttmacher ranks as “supportive” of women’s health dropped from 17 to just 13 over that same time period. California is the most notable example of a state that actually took a stand to safeguard abortion rights, passing several pieces of legislation to expand women’s access to abortion and prevent clinics from being unfairly targeted. There are a few glimmers of hope that more states will follow in the Golden State’s lead in 2014. Pennsylvania lawmakers recently introduced a sweeping package of legislation to protect women’s health, and lawmakers in New York are gearing up for a similar initiative after falling short last session.