Reproductive Rights Under Attack Like Never Before

A study published Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute puts some math behind Democrats’ “War on Women” rhetoric, finding that reproductive rights really have been under attack like never before over the last three years.

The study tallied up a total of 205 new restrictions on abortion that have cleared state legislatures since 2011. “Just 189 were enacted during the entire previous decade (2001–2010),” the study noted.

2013 saw the second-most new anti-abortion laws, with 70. A total of 83 new restrictions passed in 2011, making it the busiest year for anti-abortion lawmakers.

A slim majority of the states, 27, were considered in the study to be “hostile” to abortion rights. Right about 56 percent of American women live in these states.

The new laws passed in the last three years include restrictions on abortion providers, like the Texas law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; restrictions on whether private insurance policies may cover abortion, like Michigan’s so-called “rape insurance” law; bans on abortion at up to 12-20 weeks into a pregnancy; and new limitations on how women may access medication abortions.

“The historic rise of these attacks on women’s health can be traced back to 2010, when out-of-touch tea party politicians picked up key seats in legislatures across the country, promising to create jobs and boost our economy — but immediately focused on ending access to safe and legal abortion and limiting women’s health care options," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in an advisory. "The laws these extreme politicians are passing are more than attacks on women's health — they are attacks on what Americans believe. The majority of Americans, regardless of political party, believe that a woman should be able to make personal medical decisions without political interference — that is why politicians had to employ every underhanded trick in the book to get these laws passed, sometimes quite literally in the dark of night."

While most of these measures have been tied up in court by pro-choice advocacy groups, victory is not assured. The Supreme Court is expected to take on several of the leading cases, including whether private health insurance policies will provide universal access to birth control.

Justice Sonya Sotomayor issued a temporary stay on New Year’s Eve against the federal government’s rule requiring universal access to birth control, exempting a handful of companies from compliance ahead of a full hearing on the matter.

The Supreme Court is also likely to weigh in on laws that require abortion doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges, like a measure in Texas that closed a third of the state’s clinics. A similar measure was passed by Republicans in Wisconsin, but a federal appeals court put it on hold pending a full trial.
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Photo: "Screaming woman," via Shutterstock.