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Record Number of Abortion Restrictions Enacted So Far in 2011

Since January 2011, states have enacted a record-breaking 162 pieces of legislation in reproductive health policy, with nearly half (80) of those being abortion restrictions.[1] All of the legislation was enacted in just 19 states. With only ten state legislatures left in session, the Guttmacher Institute has compiled a summary of provisions passed in 2011 that pertain to reproductive health and rights.
Various abortion restrictions have been enacted, including counseling requirements, waiting periods, and gestational bans. However, legislation concerning abortion insurance coverage has been the most popular attack so far in 2011. Eleven states have passed 15 different limitations on access to coverage for abortion. Four states—Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah—will now limit abortion coverage in all private health insurance plans, as well as in future plans offered by the new health exchanges. Other states have passed restrictions on coverage coming from state employee health plans and Medicaid.[2] While the insurance coverage limits were the most common legislation introduced, it has not been the most restrictive.
South Dakota passed a law in March that drastically changed the state’s policy on waiting periods and counseling. Similar measures enacted by other states—Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas—have not been nearly as restrictive as South Dakota’s H.B. 1217, which requires a woman to wait 72 hours between her initial consultation and the abortion procedure and demands she visit a crisis pregnancy center before she goes through with the procedure.[3] Crisis pregnancy centers falsely advertise “comprehensive services” to pregnant women, but then provide medically inaccurate information. However, H.B.1217 is not yet in effect, as it is currently being challenged in court.
The Guttmacher summary also highlights gestational bans, which are measures that outlaw abortion beyond a certain point in a fetus’s development. Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma have adopted legislation similar to that of Nebraska, which bans an abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, unless the woman’s life is endangered.[4] Ohio’s “Heartbeat” bill, H.B. 125, presents the most radical threshold by banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. In varying pregnancies, this could occur as early as 18 days after conception, before a woman might be aware of the pregnancy at all.[5] The bill has passed the House and will be considered by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate in the fall.
Further, six states—Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—passed legislation to restrict medical abortion, nonsurgical abortion that is induced by taking certain, prescribed medications. Some of these measures mandate that providers use an outdated, inconvenient method for administering these medications.[6] Other states chose to outlaw the use of telemedicine in a medical abortion.[7] In a state where telemedicine is legal, a patient can receive consultation from a doctor virtually, without having to travel to that doctor. A nurse practitioner or other medical professional can then provide medication.[8] A recent study of the service in Iowa found that 94 percent of telemedicine abortion patients were “very satisfied” with the service.[9] Just this year, five states have banned the use of telemedicine for abortion.[10]
Finally, Guttmacher looked at the grim state of funding for family planning providers across the nation. Of the 18 states that have a line item for family planning, half have seen significant budget cuts. Of those nine, three states—Montana, New Hampshire, and Texas—cut their family planning budgets by disproportionately large amounts. Other states continue tactics to target providers directly—most often Planned Parenthood affiliates.[11]
Across the country, the 2011 legislative session brought an unprecedented number of abortion restrictions, with Kansas being the most impacted. The state has passed legislation restricting abortion coverage in health care plans and banning abortion past 20 weeks’ gestation.[12] Women seeking abortions have to endure ultrasounds, being told that their fetus is a person, and do not have access to telemedicine for a medical abortion.[13] Additionally, new regulations for clinics target the only three remaining abortion providers in the state.[14] Finally, the Kansas Coalition for Life is pushing strongly for a “heartbeat” bill similar to that of Ohio.[15]

[1] “States Enact Record Number of Abortion Restrictions in First Half of 2011,” Guttmacher Institute, 13 July 2011, accessed 18 July 2011, <>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Huma Khan, “Ohio Abortion Bill Poses Biggest Challenge to Roe v. Wade Yet ,” ABCNews, 9 February 2011, accessed 19 July 2011 <>.

[6] “States Enact Record Number.”

[7] Ibid.

[8] Linda Carroll, “Abortions via ‘Telemedicine’ Are Safe, Effective, Iowa Study Finds,” MSNBC, 20 July 2011, accessed 21 July 2011, <>.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “States Enact Record Number.”

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “State Legislation Enacted in 2011 Related to Reproductive Health,” Guttmacher Institute, July 2011, accessed 19 July 2011, <>.

[14] A. G. Sulzberger and Monica Davey, “New Law in Kansas Seen as a Threat to Abortions,” New York Times, 24 June 2011, accessed 20 July 2011, <>.

[15] “Anti-abortion Groups in Kansas Push for Restrictions that Would Defy Roe v. Wade,” The Republic, 17 July 2011, accessed 19 July 2011, <–Kansas-Abortion-Restrictions/>.