By Elise Viebeck - 07/08/14 12:42 PM EDT
States are passing fewer new abortion restrictions in 2014 than in recent years, due in part to shorter legislative sessions and a host of non-abortion policy debates, according to a new analysis.
Twenty-one new laws to limit abortion have been implemented at the state level so far in 2014, roughly half the number that took effect by this month last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
In general, the pace of new abortion restrictions has dropped significantly from 2011, the study found. That year, states enacted 80 new laws curbing abortion rights, more than the total enacted in the previous four years combined.
Guttmacher said the number of new limitations should still trouble supporters of abortion rights.
"The number of states with [laws restricting abortion providers] has more than doubled since 2000," the group reported Tuesday.
"With the addition of these new laws, 59 percent of women of reproductive age live in a state that has enacted targeted regulation of abortion providers."
Supporters of the restrictions counter that they serve to protect women's health and make abortions safer.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) commented last month that the state's new admitting privileges rules "help us continue to protect women and the life of the unborn."
"These new laws will give women the health and safety protections they deserve, and continue to make Louisiana a state that values individual human life," he said.
Debates on women's healthcare are sure to figure prominently in the November elections, whether they pertain directly to state-level abortion laws or not.
The Supreme Court's divisive ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores means that some for-profit companies can refuse to cover birth control in their health plans on religious grounds.
Democrats, seeking to capitalize on their loss, are laying the groundwork to lure Republicans into fights over birth control as a way to energize women voters.
Republicans deny this strategy will be effective, pointing to the unpopularity of the healthcare law and the vulnerability of many Democratic incumbents.