The year 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
It also marked another year of success for those who would restrict or even outlaw the procedure.
While much national attention was focused on efforts to restrict abortion in Texas, a new study from the Guttmacher Institute reports that as many as 22 states enacted 70 provisions aimed at curbing access to abortion. That makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of abortion restrictions enacted in a single year, according to the think tank for reproductive rights.
To put the recent trend in some perspective: The 205 abortion restrictions enacted between 2011 and 2013 were more than the 189 enacted during the entire previous decade (2001 to 2010).
More than half of the restrictions passed in 2013 fell into one of four categories:
- Regulations aimed at closing down abortion clinics by imposing restrictions that go beyond those required to protect patient safety. One such rule forces clinics to meet standards that were designed for hospitals or outpatient surgery centers that do more advanced techniques; another requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.
- Limits on insurance coverage of abortion, particularly within the new health exchanges that have been set up to sell coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
- Bans on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Limits on abortions that rely on pills rather than surgery.
The Guttmacher report also notes a marked geographic shift in the number of states considered "hostile" to abortion rights, which the institute defines as a region that has at least four major types of abortion restrictions. In 2000, the institute counted 13 "hostile" states (home to 31 percent of the nation's women). In 2013, as many as 56 percent of all U.S. women found themselves living in one of the 27 states considered "hostile" to abortion rights.
From the perspective of abortion rights groups, about the only bright spot in the report was a new California law that expands access to abortion by allowing medical professionals other than physicians to perform the procedure.
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