Against the backdrop of a contentious presidential campaign in which abortion and even contraception were front-burner issues —to a degree unprecedented in recent memory—supporters of reproductive health and rights were able to block high-profile attacks on access to abortion in states as diverse as Alabama, Idaho, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Similarly, the number of attacks on state family planning funding was down sharply, and only two states disqualified family planning providers from funding in 2012, compared with seven in 2011. That said, no laws were enacted this year to facilitate or improve access to abortion, family planning or comprehensive sex education.The restrictions that were enacted were very much like those in the past that have been reported here, here and here.
Twenty-four of the 43 new abortion restrictions were enacted in just six states. Arizona led the way, enacting seven restrictions; Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin each enacted at least three. Although some of the most high-profile debates occurred around legislation requiring that women seeking an abortion be required to first undergo an ultrasound or imposing strict regulations on abortion providers, most of the new restrictions enacted in 2012 concerned limits on later abortion, coverage in health exchanges or medication abortion.
These include requiring a woman to undergo pre-abortion procedures that are medically unnecessary, targeting regulation of abortion providers (so-called TRAP laws), requiring abortion providers to obtain physicians' privileges at a nearby hospital even though these are not mandated for other outpatient procedures, banning abortion of pre-viable fetuses based on scientifically bogus fetal pain claims, barring abortion coverage in health insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act, requiring women to obtain pre-abortion counseling that includes lies and irrelevant information, and limiting medication abortions via telemedicine.
Telemedicine has been increasingly used for health care in rural and other medically underserved areas, which, in terms of abortion, is more than four-fifths of the counties in the United States:
Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin enacted provisions requiring that the physician prescribing the medication for the abortion be in the same room as the patient, bringing to seven the number of states that prohibit the use of telemedicine. A similar limitation was vetoed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.Making abortion more difficult to obtain, more expensive, more time-consuming and more intrusive is the clear objective of all these restrictions, same as it ever was. The effort is to hamstring providers and shame women seeking to end their pregnancies. As if there weren't enough evidence already, these restrictions demonstrate how important it is to focus attention on state legislative elections.
In addition, Arizona enacted a provision that requires mifepristone [also known as RU486] to be provided in accordance with an outdated FDA protocol rather than a simpler, long-standing evidence-based protocol that is equally safe and effective with fewer side effects. Arizona joins Ohio in requiring use of the FDA protocol.