Report: States Enacted 39 Abortion Restrictions So Far In 2012

In just the first half of 2012, states have enacted 95 new provisions related to reproductive health and rights, including 39 new laws restricting women’s access to abortion services. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute confirms that although states have approved fewer restrictions so far in 2012 than this time last year, “55% of U.S. women of reproductive age now live in one of the 26 states considered hostile to abortion rights.”

Here is a sampling of new state abortion restrictions:

— Waiting periods: So far this year, states have considered requiring counseling and extending waiting periods for women seeking an abortion. In April, Utah enacted the most extreme waiting period law by requiring women to wait a full 72 hours between obtaining counseling and having the procedure. Twenty-five other states have waiting period laws that generally require the woman to wait 24 hours.

— Fetal heartbeat: Oklahoma and Louisiana adopted measures that attempt to use the fetal heartbeat to dissuade women from seeking an abortion. The Oklahoma law requires health providers to offer women the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat if they are after eight weeks’ postfertilization. In Louisiana, health providers must make the heartbeat audible, often necessitating a transvaginal ultrasound.


— Mental health: Arizona and South Dakota passed laws requiring counseling on the unsubstantiated negative mental health consequences of abortion. Nine states now require the counseling. The myth that there is a causal link between abortion and mental health issues has been largely debunked by mental health professionals.

— Public pressure helps: Only 30 percent of abortion restrictions passed by one chamber have actually been enacted so far this year, a significantly lower rate than the proportion signed into law at this point in 2011. Public pushback against the transvaginal ultrasound law in Virginia likely squashed momentum for similar provisions in Alabama, Idaho, and Pennsylvania. In addition, last November’s defeat of the Mississippi personhood amendment probably helped thwart efforts for similar laws elsewhere in the country.

A year ago, 2011 was record-breaking in terms of attacks on reproductive health. While this year is set to have fewer restrictions on the books, 2012’s figures are still higher than any year prior to 2011. As was the case last year, issues related to abortion and family planning funding were lightning rod issues in a few state legislatures. In fact, 14 of the new restrictions have been enacted in just three states — Arizona, Louisiana, and South Dakota — three of the most hostile to reproductive health.

Steven Perlberg