Restrictions On Abortion Multiply This Year

Jul 14, 2011

As predicted by those on both sides of the contentious abortion battle, states in the first half of this year have enacted a record 162 new laws or changes to existing laws that affect reproductive health, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute.

According to the report, the 80 new abortion restrictions already in 2011 are more than double the previous annual record of 34 seen in 2005, and more than triple 2010's 23 changes.

The changes weren't that hard to see coming, given the election in 2010 of anti-abortion governors and majorities in more than half the states. In fact, according to the Guttmacher report, all of this year's changes came from just 19 states.

Most dramatic were bills seeking to ban abortion altogether. Five states passed laws that outlaw the procedure after 20 weeks gestation, which appears to be in conflict with existing Supreme Court precedent that forbids abortion bans prior to viability, which is several weeks later than that.

An Ohio bill that has passed that state's House would ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is around eight weeks gestation. The measure is currently before the Ohio Senate.

By far the most popular measures were to ban abortion coverage in the new insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for coverage starting in 2014.

Eight states passed laws banning the sale of policies in the insurance exchanges that offer coverage of abortion; four of those laws (in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah) would extend the ban to all private insurance coverage offered in the state.

Five states moved to restrict family planning funding to specific providers, most notably Planned Parenthood, although some of those efforts have been blocked by various courts.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.