The 2010 midterm elections brought a wave of Republican victories, particularly at the state level, and along with those victories came a renewed attack on women’s reproductive health and rights. Between 2011 and the end of 2014, states have enacted 231 abortion restrictions, and more are on the way.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, legislatures in 43 states have introduced, so far this year, a total of 332 provisions seeking to restrict access to abortion services, and it’s only April. As of April 1, 53 of those proposed restrictions have passed at least one legislative chamber, and nine of them have been enacted into law by four states.
Arkansas enacted a new law that requires abortion providers to use outdated FDA protocol on medication abortions. Idaho and Arkansas enacted laws banning telemedicine for medication abortion. West Virginia joined 13 other states in enacting a 20 week post fertilization abortion ban, and seven other states are considering a similar ban. Arizona is the most recent state to enact a new abortion restriction. The new Arizona law not only prevents women from purchasing health insurance that includes abortion coverage on the federal health exchange; it also requires doctors to lie to their patients by telling them that medication abortions may be reversible. It is hard to imagine a more egregious intrusion into the doctor/patient relationship. It is, in effect, a legally mandated violation of medical ethics.
Those restrictions, unfortunately, are just the tip of the iceberg. RH Reality Check reports that Texas is considering 25 anti-choice bills, Missouri has introduced 20, Minnesota 14, South Carolina and Tennessee 12, and Iowa 11. Twenty-one states are considering targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAPs) that go beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety, and 16 states are debating Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) that could deny women insurance coverage for contraceptives. These state RFRAs are modeled after the federal law that formed the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
TRAP laws, however, are encountering trouble in the courts. Late last month U.S. District Judge William Conley ordered a permanent injunction against a Wisconsin TRAP law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they practice. In his opinion Judge Conley ruled that the proposed law violated the 14th amendment:
The marginal benefit to women’s health of requiring hospital admitting privileges, if any, is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women’s health outcomes due to restricted access to abortions in Wisconsin….While the court agrees with the State that sometimes it is necessary to reduce access to insure safety, this is decidedly not one of those instances.
The court is, if anything, more convinced that the admitting privileges requirement in Act 37 ‘remains a solution in search of a problem,’ unless that problem is access to abortion itself.
Let’s hope that more courts overturn these TRAP laws and other arbitrary restrictions that serve only to deny women access to abortion services. Otherwise, it could be a very bad year in the ever escalating war on the reproductive rights of women.
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy