- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The number of new abortion restrictions in states across the country has fallen by half, possibly because states turned their interests elsewhere this year, the Guttmacher Institute said Tuesday.

In the first half of 2014, 13 states adopted 21 restrictions on abortion, the organization said in a new report. By the same time last year, states had enacted 41 provisions.

The record year was in 2011, when states — many led by newly elected Republican majorities — passed 80 provisions that limited the availability of abortion by mid-year.

Guttmacher researchers count provisions individually, which means one abortion-related law can have multiple provisions.

Popular provisions include requiring that abortion clinics meet higher standards as ambulatory surgical centers; requiring abortion doctors to have local hospital-admitting privileges; and mandating that women seeking abortions be given more information and time to think about their pregnancies. 

Mississippi joined several states in passing a law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks gestation, while West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, vetoed a similar law in his state.

Pro-choice organizations oppose these types of regulations as unnecessary and obstructive to women seeking legal abortions. Many provisions are tied up in court challenges.

Pro-life organizations encourage these provisions, saying abortion clinics should be held to better standards of care in facilities and staff, especially in light of abuses discovered during the murder trial of former Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. 

They also support the “20-week” bans on abortion, saying fetuses can feel pain by that gestational age and abortion at that time is inhumane.

Guttmacher researchers suggest that the reasons for fewer abortion restrictions in the first six months of 2014 could be due to state legislative sessions that are shorter due to the election year, or not occurring (Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas lawmakers do not meet in even-numbered years). Moreover, many legislatures appeared occupied with other issues such as education, health care and the economy.