The Guttmacher Institute recently released a report which found that states enacted 39 abortion restrictions in 2012. This means that 2012 was the second-most productive year in terms of the number of pro-life bills that were passed. The only year that was more productive was 2011, which saw the enactment of 80 pieces of pro-life legislation.
Now some of these pro-life measures have been largely defensive in nature. Four states (Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin) moved to limit coverage of abortion in the health-insurance exchanges that will be established as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Technological developments prompted three states (Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee) to ban the use of telemedicine for the provision of abortion medication.
However, pro-lifers seized the initiative in other states. Three states, Arizona, Georgia, and Louisiana, have passed versions of “Pain Capable Abortion Protection Act,” which bans abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, when there is medical evidence that the unborn can feel pain. Utah became the first state to enact a 72-hour waiting period before having an abortion. Arizona and South Dakota strengthened their informed-consent laws by requiring counseling on the negative mental-health consequences of abortion.
Mississippi’s law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital has received plenty of attention due to the fact that it may result in the closure of Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic. However, similar laws were signed this year in both Arizona and Tennessee. Some have speculated that the Tennessee law, which took effect July 1, may result in the closure of both abortion clinics in Knoxville.
When Republicans make substantial gains in state legislatures, there typically is a short-term increase in the amount of pro-life legislation that is enacted. However, the Republican gains in 2010 have resulted in considerably more pro-life legislation than the Republican gains in 1994. This partly due to the impressive gains the pro-life position has made in the court of public opinion. It is also due to the fact pro-lifers are focusing more on the states and have become more creative in their thinking — emphasizing clinic regulations, public support for crisis pregnancy centers, and other strategies to lower abortion rates. All of this bodes well for the future of the pro-life movement.
— Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New