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The Six Worst Attacks On Reproductive Freedom In 2013

GOP lawmakers certainly failed our women this year.

2013 hasn’t been a great year for reproductive rights.  Ever since 2010, abortion opponents have imposed a flurry of state-level legislation intended to slowly chip away at abortion access, and that trend certainly continued this year.

But women’s health advocates also believe there was something different about 2013. This year, a far-right contingent of the anti-choice community appeared to abandon their incremental strategy — in which they undermine women’s access to abortion bit by bit, largely with indirect laws that don’t strike at the heart of Roe v. Wade — and get bolder. They started pushing for extremely harsh abortion restrictions that fly in the face of the constitutional right to choose, and they got more serious about shutting down abortion clinics one by one. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), lawmakers in more than 25 states proposed some kind of outright ban on abortion this year.

And they were largely successful. Here’s what the anti-choice community managed to accomplish in 2013:

1. North Dakota and Arkansas approved the harshest abortion bans in the nation.

In March, Arkansas enacted a 12-week abortion ban, cutting off access to reproductive care far before the parameters established under Roe v. Wade, which guarantees legal abortion rights until around 24 weeks of pregnancy. At the time, it was the harshest abortion ban in the country. But not to be outdone, anti-choice lawmakers in North Dakota soon surpassed that record. Later that month, North Dakota enacted a six-week abortion ban, outlawing the procedure at a point before many women even realize they’re pregnant. North Dakota’s governor admitted that he approved that law because he wants to provoke a Supreme Court challenge to Roe. Both laws are currently awaiting their day in court.

2. Texas passed a sweeping law that’s forced one third of the state’s clinics to shut down.

Over the last six months, Texas is the state that’s most frequently landed in the headlines because of its abortion policy. This summer, as Texas lawmakers considered a package of stringent abortion restrictions that inspired massive grassroots protests, the fight captured national attention. Despite the outcry against the proposed measure — one poll estimated that 80 percent of Texas voters opposed the anti-choice bill — it passed, and was upheld by Texas’ extremely conservative appeals court. It began going into effect at the beginning of November.

That’s created a bleak landscape for the estimated 26 million people who live in the Lone Star State. About one third of the state’s abortion clinics have shut down, and the remaining ones are dealing with huge patient loads while operating at a reduced capacity. According to the ACLU’s estimations, about 9 million Texans don’t live within easy access to a nearby clinic anymore, a new reality that’s taking the biggest toll on low-income and rural women in the state.

3. South Dakota, home to the nation’s longest abortion waiting period, extended it even further.

In South Dakota, women are required to wait 72 hours before they’re allowed to have an abortion, a requirement that’s intended to give them the opportunity to think about their decision and ultimately change their minds. Waiting periods are condescending anti-choice policies that have spread across the country, and typically mandate a 24-hour wait. But in South Dakota, women must wait three full days before proceeding with an abortion procedure — and this year, lawmakers voted to exclude weekends and holidays from that time period. Apparently, women can’t think on weekends. The new requirement means that some women won’t be able to access abortion for six days, if they first visit a clinic right before a three-day holiday weekend.

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