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On 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Abortion Access Still Not Guaranteed

January 22, 2013, marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which barred states from banning abortion procedures.  Despite the fact that polls show that 70% of Americans support upholding the decision in Roe, anti-choice activists have continually made obtaining abortion care more difficult in recent years.[1]  In 2012, 19 states passed 43 measures restricting access to abortion, second only to 2011 in the number of new anti-abortion state laws.[2]  Arizona enacted seven restrictions, more than any other state, and Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin enacted at least three restrictions each.[3]   These state laws represent a strategy among anti-choice activists to chip away at the constitutional right to abortion guaranteed by Roe.[4]

The new restrictions enacted in 2012 make it more difficult to access abortion care by targeting both women seeking an abortion and abortion providers.  With widely publicized legislation, Virginia became the eighth state to require that women undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before they are able to receive an abortion.   Two states, South Dakota and Arizona, now require women to receive counseling before an abortion that contains misleading or incorrect information.  Montana now requires women under the age of 16 to obtain parental consent before they are able to have an abortion.  In addition, “Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana enacted measures to ban abortion prior to fetal viability in direct conflict with U.S. Supreme Court decisions.”[5]

The measures affecting abortion care providers are designed to make it more difficult for clinics that provide abortion care to keep their doors open.  Three states enacted laws that affect only abortion clinics, not other providers of outpatient surgical care.  Such measures are referred to as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws.  The new TRAP law in Arizona creates new requirements for clinics to follow up with patients who have received a medication abortion as well as reporting requirements for complications experienced while performing abortions.  Michigan and Virginia enacted TRAP laws requiring clinics that perform abortions to adhere to strict architectural requirements.  Finally, Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee now require physicians at clinics that provide abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.[6]  This new law threatens to shutter the lone abortion provider in Mississippi.      

In the same week as the Roe anniversary, attacks on access to abortion services continued, this time in North Dakota where five bills, ranging from defining personhood to limiting physician privileges, were discussed in hearings in both senate and house.[7]

[1]Rachel Weiner, “Poll: On Roe v. Wade anniversary, majority think abortion should be legal,” Washington Post, January 22, 2013, accessed January 23, 2013,

[2]2012 Saw Second-Highest Number of Abortion Restrictions Ever (Washington, DC: Guttmacher Institute, 2013), accessed January 23, 2013,


[4]Kate Pickert, “What Choice?” Time, January 14, 2013, accessed January 23, 2013,,9171,2132761-10,00.html.

[5]2012 Saw Second-Highest Number of Abortion Restrictions Ever, ibid.


[7]Kate Sheppard, “North Dakota Lawmakers Have Plenty of Anti-Abortion Bills to Choose From,” Mother Jones, February 2, 2013, accessed February 4, 2013,