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Report: States Enacted 57 Abortion-Rights Restrictions in 2015

In 2015, 46 states considered a total of 396 antiabortion-rights measures and 17 states passed 57 such laws, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, Rolling Stone reports.

Restrictions on the Rise

In the report, the researchers cited an increase in abortion-rights restrictions over the last five years. "Including the 57 abortion restrictions enacted in 2015, states have adopted 288 abortion restrictions just since the 2010 midterm elections swept abortion opponents into power in state capitals across the country," the researchers wrote, adding, "(S)tates adopted nearly as many abortion restrictions during the last five years (288 enacted 2011 -- 2015) as during the entire previous 15 years (292 enacted 1995 -- 2010)" (Kelley, Rolling Stone, 1/4).

According to the researchers, 31 states over the last five years have enacted at least one abortion-rights restriction. Meanwhile,"[t]he 10 states that enacted at least 10 new restrictions together account for 173, or 60% of the 288 new abortion restrictions adopted over the last five years," the researchers added. The researchers noted that those states "are overwhelmingly located in the South and the Midwest, and it is likely that access to services for women in these regions has been impacted significantly."

Further, the researchers noted that "[f]our states -- Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma -- each enacted at least 20 new abortion restrictions, making this handful of states, which together adopted 94 new restrictions, responsible for a third of all abortion restrictions enacted nationwide over the last five years." According to the researchers, "Kansas has the dubious distinction of leading the pack with 30 new abortion restrictions since 2010."

Abortion-Rights Restrictions in 2015

The report found that, when broken down by topic, the restrictions passed last year tend to fall into four main categories: counseling and mandatory delays; medication abortion; abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy; and targeted regulation of abortion providers.

Mandatory delay legislation was enacted in five states. Florida and Tennessee passed mandatory delay measures, while Arkansas, North Carolina and Oklahoma lengthened mandatory delays already in place. According to Guttmacher, the courts have blocked the Florida law (HB 633). Meanwhile, the Oklahoma law (HB 1409) has been challenged, but it can take effect while the challenge is pending.

Meanwhile, four states -- Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas and Montana -- tried to ban the use of telemedicine for provision of abortion care, while two states, Arizona and Arkansas, adopted laws that require doctors to provide women medically unproven information about the procedure. The researchers noted that the Arkansas law (HB 1578) is in effect, while the Arizona law (SB 1318) is on hold pending the outcome of an ongoing legal challenge.

Looking at restrictions on abortion care after the first trimester, the researchers noted that Kansas (SB 95) and Oklahoma (SB 1721) enacted laws to prohibit a "safe and medically proven method that has long been used for abortions after 14 weeks." According to the researchers, "both laws are enjoined pending court action." In addition, the researchers noted that West Virginia and Wisconsin passed laws to ban abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. West Virginia's ban has taken effect, while Wisconsin's is set to take effect in February.

Meanwhile, five states enacted TRAP laws last year. Four states -- Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio and Oklahoma -- tightened existing requirements, while one state, Tennessee, passed a new TRAP law (Pub. Ch. 419).

Other Attacks Against Reproductive Rights

The researchers also noted that efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers who offer abortion care "have flared at both the federal and state levels" since an antiabortion-rights group in the summer began releasing a series of misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. These attacks tend to target providers' Medicaid funding, other funding for family planning and funding for related health care services, such as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Meanwhile, according to the researchers, 10 states in 2015 "moved to regulate either the process for fetal tissue donation or biomedical research conducted in the state using fetal tissue resulting from induced abortion."

Advances for Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights

In addition to highlighting abortion-rights restrictions, the researchers also noted that "states made important advances in 2015 on other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues" (Nash et. al, Guttmacher report, 2015).

For example, Oregon adopted a law that allows adults to obtain contraception without having to visit a doctor (Rolling Stone, 1/4). Meanwhile, Maine moved to expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage of family planning to individuals with incomes up to 209% of the federal poverty level (Guttmacher report, 2015).