Abortion rights under attack coast to coast

Guttmacher Institute, Winter 2012, Volume 15, Number 1

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute shows that, in the past decade, a substantial number of states have shifted from having only a moderate number of abortion restrictions to becoming “overtly hostile” to abortion rights.

The report explains that:

The implications of this shift are enormous. In 2000, the country was almost evenly divided, with nearly a third of American women of reproductive age living in states solidly hostile to abortion rights, slightly more than a third in states supportive of abortion rights and close to a third in middle-ground states. By 2011, however, more than half of women of reproductive age lived in hostile states. This growth came largely at the expense of the states in the middle, and the women who live in them; in 2011, only one in 10 American women of reproductive age lived in a middle-ground state.

Florida is among the states that had moderate abortion rights restrictions as early as the year 2000. Today, the state is solidly in the category of states with “hostile” restrictions, likely due to an influx in anti-abortion legislation in recent years. According to the report, Florida is among the “12 states that had been middle-ground in 2000 [but] had become hostile to abortion rights by 2011.”

In determining which states had shifted, researchers looked into whether states had passed legislation in the past few years that:

  • mandated parental involvement prior to a minor’s abortion;
  • required preabortion counseling that is medically inaccurate or misleading;
  • extended waiting period paired with a requirement that counseling be conducted in-person, thus necessitating two trips to the facility;
  • mandated performance of a non–medically indicated ultrasound prior to an abortion;
  • prohibited Medicaid funding except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest;
  • restricted abortion coverage in private health insurance plans;
  • instituted medically inappropriate restrictions on the provision of medication abortion;
  • instituted onerous requirements on abortion facilities that are not related to patient safety;
  • instituted an unconstitutional ban on abortions prior to fetal viability or limitations on the circumstances under which an abortion can be performed after viability; or
  • instituted a preemptive ban on abortion outright in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Just last year, the state of Florida tightened up its laws regarding “mandated parental involvement prior to a minor’s abortion” – making it more difficult for a minor to receive a necessary judicial bypass of the law. The state also passed a law last year that requires women to undergo a mandatory ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.
Even though the state already had a ban on public funding of abortions through programs like Medicaid (with the exceptions of cases of rape or incest), an amendment passed through the legislature last year that would amend the Florida Constitution to explicitly ban public funding of abortions.

That amendment would also remove explicit privacy rights afforded to Floridians in the state’s Constitution. The state also passed a law last year prohibiting private insurance companies from covering abortions if the health insurance plan receives funds from the Affordable Care Act.

As a result of legislative action in states like Florida, researchers say the landscape of women’s abortion rights in the U.S. has rapidly changed.

According to the report:
Over a third of women of reproductive age lived in states supportive of abortion rights in both 2000 and 2011, 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively. However, the proportion of women living in states hostile to abortion rights increased dramatically, from 31 percent to 55 percent, while the proportion living in middle-ground states shrank, from 29 percent to 10 percent. Altogether, the number of women of reproductive age living in hostile states grew by 15 million over the period, while the number in middle-ground states fell by almost 12 million.

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