This week the Guttmacher Institute released a report on state abortion policy. In the first half of 2014, 21 state-level pro-life laws were enacted. Guttmacher and a number of pundits have noted that this marks a decline — this is the fewest number of pro-life laws passed mid-year since 2009. It is also about half the number of state-level pro-life laws that had been enacted by this point last year. This report has been picked up by a number of media outlets including the Washington Post, the Hill, and the Washington Times.
However, these results should be looked at in context. First, a number of state legislatures sympathetic to pro-life legislation, including Texas’s, have not been in session this year. The past three years have also been exceptional in the amount of state-level pro-life legislation that was enacted — more pro-life laws were passed between 2011 and 2013 than in the previous decade combined. Part of this sharp increase in pro-life laws was due to the fact that political and technological changes put pro-lifers on the defensive. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 25 states enacted laws limiting abortion coverage in the health exchanges. Additionally, 15 states enacted bans on telemed abortions.
Overall, Guttmacher has been collecting data on state-level pro-life laws since the mid 1980s. Already, 2014 ranks as the tenth-most-productive year on record in terms of the number such laws passed. Highlights include the Mississippi becoming the 13th state to enact a 20 week abortion ban, as well as Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signing legislation requiring abortionists to obtain hospital-admitting privileges. All in all, the pace may have slowed somewhat, but many states are still making impressive progress enacting protective laws and building a culture of life.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan – Dearborn and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.