Guttmacher Institute: State Laws Restricting Abortion at an All-Time High

A report by the Guttmacher Institute shows that 19 state governments have enacted 162 abortion regulations so far this year. Eighty, almost half, of those regulations, a new record, are pro-life regulations. The previous record was set in 2005 when 34 similar regulations were enacted.

These regulations are aimed at encouraging pregnant women to choose options other than abortion, regulating the safety of the mother during an abortion, restricting the gestational period for when a fetus can be aborted, or limiting government funds to abortion providers.

Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas all passed laws requiring waiting periods and/or counseling to help pregnant mothers understand the risk factors involved in getting an abortion.

Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma passed laws banning abortions after the fetus is 20 weeks old. Nebraska was the first to pass such a law last year. The 20-week mark is used due to evidence that the fetus starts to feel pain at about that stage of development.

With the new health care exchanges set to go into effect after passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the issue of whether the exchanges will provide abortion coverage was considered in 24 states. Eight of these have passed so far.

Florida, Idaho, Indiana and Virginia will not allow abortion coverage in private plans available through the health exchanges. Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah forbid abortion coverage in all private health insurance plans.

Six states passed laws regulating the use of RU-486, sometimes called the “abortion pill.” Kansas and Oklahoma now restrict the use of RU-486 to the first 49 days after pregnancy, rather than the 63 days currently recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. These states also require women to see their abortion provider to receive their second dosage, whereas the Food and Drug Administration recommendations allow the second dose to be taken at home.

Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska and Tennessee banned the use of teleconferencing, where a physician authorizes the use of RU-486 from a remote location.

Five states (Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin) restricted or eliminated funding for clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, that provide abortions or referrals for abortions.

Other abortion regulations may yet be enacted as some state legislatures remain in session. In Ohio, for instance, the House passed a bill that would make it illegal to abort a fetus with a heartbeat, which usually occurs between six and 10 weeks. The Ohio Senate has yet to vote on it.

Some of these laws will not go into effect right away as they are being challenged in state and federal courts. Over the past month, for instance, judges have blocked a ban on Medicaid funds going to Planned Parenthood in Indiana, a waiting period and counseling requirement in South Dakota, and a Kansas law imposing licensing and health code regulations on abortion providers.

The Guttmacher Institute supports legalized abortion and conducts research, policy analysis and public education on the topic.