The right-wing assault on women's health and reproductive rights continues to rage in state legislatures across the United States, with a new report showing that in the first half of 2015 alone, states enacted no fewer than 51 wide-ranging abortion restrictions.
According to the New York-based research non-profit the Guttmacher Institute, many of the new laws focused on four areas: waiting periods, abortions after the first trimester, medication abortion, and so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) provisions such as ambulatory surgical center requirements.
However, the report notes: "Even as states continue to pass new abortion restrictions, the Supreme Court is poised to hear one, and maybe two, major abortion cases in the coming year."
The court is likely to take a case challenging a 2013 Texas law—described by one critic as "public health disaster"—that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and imposes TRAP requirements on abortion clinics in the state.
And in Mississippi, the last abortion clinic in the state is awaiting a decision on whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take a case centering on a TRAP law requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.
Among the abortion restrictions passed so far this year are fourteen measures that ban abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization. In addition, the Guttmacher Institute points out, "For the first time, two states, Kansas and Oklahoma, enacted measures that could ban abortion as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy."
The report explains:
These new laws use nonmedical, vague and inflammatory language to try to ban abortion procedures commonly used in the second trimester. The Kansas law was challenged in early June on the grounds that it violates the state’s constitution by infringing on a woman’s ability to access a safe abortion method and dictating medical practice; the law is not in effect pending resolution of the challenge. Similar measures are likely to be proposed in other states.
On Wednesday, Teddy Wilson of RH Reality Check summarized some of this year's restrictions.
Of Kansas's new ban on dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, which he notes is "widely considered one of the country’s most radical anti-choice measures," Wilson writes: "The law was based on copycat legislation drafted by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), and redefined the D and E procedure as 'dismemberment' abortion. The graphic and medically inaccurate language in the law describing the D and E procedure is key to NRLC’s strategy of passing similar anti-choice legislation in other states."
Indeed, in a prescient piece written in 2013—a year that saw a whopping 70 new abortion restrictions passed in state legislatures—National Right to Life News editor Dave Andrusko quoted political science professor Glen Halva-Neubauer to explain the "genius" of the state-level, "incremental" approach:
"The right-to-life people are extremely smart with their strategy," said Halva-Neubauer, a Furman professor who has studied states’ abortion policies. "Go after late-term abortions and chip away, chip away, chip away. You are making an argument on late-term abortions that might end up being very useful to you as a limit on earlier abortions."
As Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, warned in an op-ed last November, "[s]ince 2011, state politicians have enacted more than 200 restrictions that make it harder for women to obtain safe, legal abortion care... Passed under the pretense of regulating safety standards, the true purpose of these laws is to hollow out Roe v. Wade’s recognition of women’s constitutional right to decide for themselves whether to end a pregnancy, as well as the legal protections afforded by that historic ruling."
She continued: "This new tactic seeks legitimate cover for the illegitimate goal of denying significant numbers of American women access to safe, legal, essential reproductive health care. The question is: Will courts, especially the Supreme Court, let them get away with it?"