- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2014

State lawmakers passed 70 provisions restricting abortions in 2013, the second-highest tally on record, the Guttmacher Institute said Thursday.

Many restrictions involved banning abortions at a certain time in pregnancy, such as 20 weeks postfertilization; setting new regulations for abortion providers, facilities or the handling of drug-induced abortions; and limiting abortion coverage in health insurance.

Taken together, the new restrictions mean that 56 percent of women live in 27 states that are “hostile” to abortion, Guttmacher said in its report on 2013 state policies. The organization counts provisions individually, so one abortion-related law can have more than one provision.

For more than two decades, state lawmakers passed relatively few numbers of restrictions on abortions — a total of 189 measures from 2001 to 2010, Guttmacher said.

But that changed in 2011, when a record 92 abortion restrictions were passed. When 2011’s provisions are added to 2012’s 43 restrictions and 2013’s 70 restrictions, the last three years have seen more limits put on abortion than in the previous decade, it said.

California was the state that went strongest against that national trend, Guttmacher said, as its lawmakers passed AB 154, which will allow trained nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to perform first-trimester abortions, either by drugs or aspiration. Aspiration abortions refer to procedures in which a fetus is suctioned out of the womb.

Physicians and surgeons are still the only professionals in California who can perform abortions after 12 weeks.

California medical organizations and Planned Parenthood supported AB 154, saying it would make it easier for women who live in areas without abortion clinics to get abortion in a timely manner, and reduce the need for more difficult, later-term abortions. The California law will “significantly improve access to early abortion services,” Guttmacher said in its report.

Pro-life groups denounced the California law, saying it was unwise to permit nonphysicians to perform abortions, and California was out of step with a nation that was moving toward more, not less, regulation of abortion.

One pro-life group, Operation Rescue, said it counted 87 surgical abortion clinics that “halted operations” in 2013, primarily due to new rules.

“The state with the most closures was Texas at 11, most of which shut down after Texas passed an abortion law earlier this year that required abortionists to maintain local hospital privileges. New clinic safety rules accounted for closures in Pennsylvania and Maryland as well,” Operation Rescue said in December.

In its new report, the Guttmacher Institute singled out North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas and North Carolina for enacting multiple abortion restrictions in 2013.

Several measures are currently enjoined by court order, but North Dakota took the unprecedented step of banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is heard — as early as six weeks into the pregnancy — and Arkansas lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a law banning abortions after 12 weeks if a heartbeat could be heard. Other states banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

North Dakota lawmakers further approved an initiative for the November ballot that could “ban abortion entirely by defining a person as a ‘human being at any stage of development,’” Guttmacher said.

Michigan just approved an insurance measure that will permit abortion costs to be covered only in cases where the woman’s life is endangered; women who expect they could need abortion coverage are required to purchase a separate rider.

According to Guttmacher, 13 states are supportive of abortion rights — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

Another 10 are “middle-ground,” having enacted two to three abortion restrictions: Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming.

The other 27 states, including Virginia, are considered “hostile” to abortion rights because they have enacted four or more major restrictions on abortion.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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