The Guttmacher Institute released their report on State Legislative Trends at Midyear 2012 last week. Their findings come as no surprise with the first half of 2012 seeing states enacting 95 new provisions related to reproductive health care issues and rights and with the states enacting 39 new restrictions on access to abortion. As was the case in 2011, family planning and sex education were significant targets in many state legislatures. According to an additional Guttmacher Institute report:
“Fully 55% of U.S. women of reproductive age now live in one of the 26 states considered hostile to abortion rights.” SOURCE
In regards to abortion, eight states now are restricting access to medication abortion procedures with three new states limiting access this year. A total of nine states have barred abortion at either 18 or 20 weeks postfertilization with the addition of three states so far this year. A total of twenty states are now limiting abortion coverage as part of the health exchanges that will be established as part of the Affordable Care Act, with four states adding limits this year.
In regards to counseling and waiting periods, Utah presents the most extreme example of new legislation becoming the first state requiring a woman to wait 72 hours between obtaining counseling and being eligible for an abortion. A total of twenty five states have waiting periods that generally require a minimum of 24 hours. Arizona and South Dakota require counseling on the negative health consequences of abortion bringing the total number of states doing so to nine, even though a connection between abortion and negative health has been widely discredited by mental health experts.
Family planning funding and sex education have also been targeted this year, although at a lower level than in 2011. So far this year only three states have moved to defund family planning centers with the courts blocking enforcement of the measure in Kansas (the other two states are Arizona and North Carolina). Wisconsin and Tennessee have adopted measures promoting abstinence until marriage education with Tennessee amending its law to require that sex education “exclusively and emphatically” teach abstinence and provide instruction on the consequences of nonmarital sex.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Guttmacher Institute, it was founded in 1968 ast the “Center for Family Planning Program Development”, a semi-autonomous division of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A fully independent not-for-profit since 1977, the institute works to advance reproductive health including abortion rights in the United States and globally. Using “an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis and public education, according to their mission statement, this program aims to “generate new ideas, encourage enlightened public debate, promote sound policy and program development and, ultimately, inform individual decision making”.