Guttmacher Midyear Report Looks at Reproductive Rights Trends and Threats

Earlier this week, the Guttmacher Institute released its midyear report on state legislative trends relating to reproductive rights. A detailed look at all ninety-five new provisions enacted across the country can be found here, but for now, here are some notable points:

  • Attempts to legislate abortion continue, although at a slower pace than was seen this time last year (39 new restrictions have been enacted so far in 2012, versus the 80 that were passed in the first half of 2011). However, these 39 restrictions – fourteen of which were enacted in just three states – represent a higher number than in any previous year except 2011.
  •  Over half of American women, 55%, live in a state considered hostile to abortion rights.

  • Public outcry against some attempted restrictions has had a positive effect. The backlash that occurred when Virginia tried to require women undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion is considered to have had an effect in halting similar measures in Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Idaho; likewise, the defeat of a personhood amendment in Mississippi seems to have helped stop similar pushes in Oklahoma and Ohio.
  • On the flip side, three more states now limit access to medication abortion, and three states have enacted bans on abortion prior to fetal viability. The reliance on fetal heartbeats as an anti-choice tactic also gained momentum this year, with Oklahoma requiring providers to offer women a chance to hear the heartbeat, and Louisiana flat-out mandating that providers make the heartbeat audible to women seeking an abortion within 24 hours of the procedure.

The picture was a bit brighter on other reproductive health issues. So far, no states have made any attempts to cut family planning funding, and Minnesota and Virginia even increased their funding. And in contrast to the eight states that tried to prevent some family planning providers from receiving state funds last year, only Kansas, North Carolina, and Arizona have enacted measures this year that would block certain providers from receiving funds (and Kansas’ provision is blocked from enforcement pending the outcome of ongoing litigation). In other encouraging news, five states are moving towards expanding eligibility for family planning services under Medicaid.

This increased eligibility might come in handy given another new trend: two more states have jumped on the abstinence-only-education bandwagon. Wisconsin has rolled back its own 2010 comprehensive sex ed law and now requires information about the benefits of abstaining from sex until marriage. And Tennessee requires that any sex education only teach abstinence, along with the “consequences” of sex outside of marriage.

About Sarah:
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out


  1. Oh, I do wonder once and a while what century we’re living in …

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