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More States Limit Access to Abortions

Potera, Carol

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AJN, American Journal of Nursing: April 2014 - Volume 114 - Issue 4 - p 18
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000445675.76317.50
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On March 25, 2013, more than 300 people attended an abortion rights rally in Bismarck, North Dakota, to protest a package of measures that would give the state the toughest abortion restrictions in the country. Photo by James MacPherson / Associated Press.

From 2010 to 2013, state legislatures in the United States passed more laws restricting women's access to safe abortion services (n = 205) than in the previous 10 years combined (n = 189), according to data compiled by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute (

The 205 new restrictions fall into 10 categories, four of which account for nearly half of those passed: bans on abortions after 20 weeks after fertilization, limits on medical abortions and on coverage by private health insurance, and regulations on providers. Back in 2000, the two most restrictive states were Utah and Mississippi, and both had five of the 10 restrictions on the Guttmacher list. By 2013, however, 22 states had five or more restrictions, and Louisiana had enacted all of them.

In 2013, 27 states were considered hostile to abortion rights, compared with 13 states in 2000. At the same time, the number of middle-ground states dropped from 20 to 10, and the number of supportive states fell from 17 to 13. A third of U.S. women lived in hostile states in 2000, but by 2013, 56% lived in hostile states.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, “These haven't just been attacks on a woman's right to choose, but it's been an all-out assault on everything from shaming pregnant women to drafting politically-driven legislation intended to create geographical roadblocks for low-income and racial minorities wishing to access safe reproductive services.”

In contrast, California has improved access to early abortions by allowing physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, and NPs to perform abortions. This January in North Carolina, a female federal judge struck down a 2011 law that forced abortion providers to show women an ultrasound image of the embryo or fetus before they have an abortion. And overall, abortion rates fell 13% from 2008 to 2011; according to a different Guttmacher report (, that's largely because of better contraceptives and the recession, rather than state restrictions.—Carol Potera

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