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State Policy Trends 2013: Abortion Bans Move to the Forefront

Written by Elizabeth Nash and Rachel Benson Gold forRH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at theoriginal post.

In 2013, as in recent years, state legislatures are devoting significant attention to issues related to reproductive health and rights. During the first three months of the year, legislators have introduced 694 provisions on these issues, and 93 have been approved by at least one legislative body.

Also in line with recent experience, abortion restrictions are at the center of state legislative activity. About half (47 percent) of all reproductive health measures introduced in the first quarter of the year seek to restrict access to abortion. But unlike in recent years, when the thrust of legislative activity was on regulating abortion (for example, requirements that women undergo an ultrasound, clinic regulations, or insurance coverage restrictions), this year legislators seem to be focusing on banning abortion outright -- either by declaring that "personhood" begins at the moment of conception or by prohibiting abortion even during the first trimester of pregnancy.

In a positive development, at the end of March two states were poised to enact legislation expanding access to comprehensive sex education; if enacted, this would be the first time since 2010 that any state has done so. (See here for a more detailed version of this analysis.)

Abortion Bans

During the first three months of 2013, legislators in 14 states introduced provisions seeking to ban abortion prior to viability. These bans fall into three categories: measures that would prohibit all abortions, those that would ban abortions after a specified point during the first trimester of pregnancy, and those that would block abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization (the equivalent of 22 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period, the conventional method physicians use to measure pregnancy). All of these proposals are in direct violation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Legislators in 10 states have introduced proposals that would ban all, or nearly all, abortions. 


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