Tougher Abortion Laws Passed by 22 States in 2013

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Graph showing that the number of abortion restrictions enacted in the past three years (2011-2013) exceeded the number enacted in the previous decade (2001-2010).
Source: Elizabeth Nash, et al., “Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights: 2013 State Policy Review,”, 2014

In 2013, a year that marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark US Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, 22 states restricted access to abortion according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive rights think tank.
70 state-level abortion restrictions were enacted in 2013, the second highest number ever enacted in a single year. 2011 holds the record, when 92 laws were enacted in 24 states. There were 205 abortion restrictions enacted during the past three years (2011-2013), surpassing the 189 laws enacted over the entire preceding decade (2001-2010).

The majority of the laws (56%) fell into four categories: bans on abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, laws imposing tougher restrictions on clinics and physicians, limitations on abortion coverage in private insurance plans, and restrictions on the availability of abortion procedures using medication rather than surgery. Other laws included requiring parental involvement in minors’ abortions, limiting public funding of abortion procedures, extending waiting periods, and requiring women to undergo an ultrasound prior to having an abortion, with the option of listening to the fetus’ heartbeat.

The Guttmacher report also noted an increase in states it terms “hostile to abortion rights,” defined as having “at least four types of major abortion restrictions.” 27 states were included in the “hostile” category in 2013, up from 13 in 2000. The proportion of women living in “hostile” states rose from 31% to 51% in the same period.

The pro-life movement has welcomed the new laws, which contributed to a record number of abortion clinic closures, according to Operation Rescue, a pro-life Christian activist organization. 87 surgical abortion clinics closed in 2013, leaving 582 clinics operating in the United States, the group claimed. “These numbers show that the pro-life movement is gaining ground and that the abortion industry is collapsing,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, also hailed the surge in anti-abortion legislation: “I’m very encouraged. We’ve been gaining ground in recent years with laws that are a stronger challenge to Roe… I think it is more difficult to get an abortion in the country today.”

Pro-choice proponents argued that the new laws are an unprecedented restriction on reproductive rights. Elizabeth Nash, State Issues Manager for the Guttmacher Institute, said that “The laws over the past three years are much more burdensome than what we’ve seen before, and they are very much targeted on abortion providers and shutting down clinics,” Nash said. “And when we don’t have clinics women are not able to access care, and their rights are then eroded.”


Laura Bassett, “More Abortion Laws Enacted In Past 3 Years Than In Entire Previous Decade,”, Jan. 3, 2014

Erik Eckholm, “Access to Abortion Falling as States Pass Restrictions,”, Jan. 3, 2014

Guttmacher Institute, “States Enact Record Number of Abortion Restrictions in 2011,”, Jan. 5, 2012

Elizabeth Nash, et al., “Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights: 2013 State Policy Review,”, 2014

Julie Rovner, “22 States Curb Access to Abortion in 2013,”, Jan. 4, 2014

Cheryl Sullenger, “Pro-Life Victory: A Record 87 Abortion Clinics Closed in 2013,”, Dec. 23, 2013

Sean Sullivan, “The Rapid Surge of State Abortion Restrictions — in One Chart,”, Jan. 2, 2014