More than 400 abortion restrictions passed since 2011 — states working overtime to cut access

Francis Rivera

Abortion and access to it, is a protected constitutional right. Throughout the country people recognize that fact and a clear majority of Americans want to keep it that way. This week, health care providers, state advocates, faith leaders and other concerned Americans from dozens of states will gather in Washington to make clear they want lawmakers to protect abortion access by supporting legislative solutions like the Women’s Health Protection Act.

The renewed effort comes as states are passing harmful abortion restrictions at historically high rates, while a hostile White House is hastily finding ways to chip away at our fundamental reproductive rights. The courts have offered some protection, overturning or blocking egregiously unconstitutional state laws.

{mosads}But President Trump has been vocal about his commitment to undermining the rule of law by appointing Supreme Court justices who would ignore the settled precedent of Roe v. Wade and erase Americans’ fundamental right to access abortion.


At a time when abortion access is under attack on multiple fronts, reproductive rights advocates must fight back using all options available — from strategic legal challenges to proactive federal legislation. It’s not only the right thing for women, it’s also an idea the American people firmly support.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle tend to treat abortion rights like a deeply controversial issue. That does not in fact reflect the national climate. A poll released by the Center for Reproductive Rights confirmed what other polls have consistently shown: that seven in 10 Americans favor upholding Roe v. Wade, which first recognized access to legal abortion as a woman’s constitutional right.

The poll — conducted as a nationwide online survey from 1,877 voting-age American adults (18+) — also revealed that six in 10 Americans see efforts by lawmakers to restrict a woman’s access to abortion as “a step in the wrong direction.”

A strong majority (81 percent) want elected officials to be proactive in prioritizing women’s health; more than half support the kind of safeguards built into the Women’s Health Protection Act.

First introduced in Congress in 2013, the Women’s Health Protection Act is critical to securing abortion access. As federal legislation, it would protect the legal right to abortion in every zip code and prohibit restrictions that make access to safe and legal abortion care expensive and difficult.

These findings are the just the latest in a growing body of research that shows Americans overwhelmingly support keeping abortion legal and accessible no matter their personal beliefs. Yet lawmakers appear committed to defying both the constitution and this public consensus.

And it’s not just public opinion that demonstrates broad support for abortion access. It’s what women actually decide to do when their health and lives are at stake. One in four women in the United States will make the decision to end a pregnancy. These are women from across the political and religious spectrum, from all parts of the country.

Yet attempts to take their power to decide away continue. States are working overtime to cut off abortion access, quietly passing more than 400 abortion restrictions since 2011.

Many of these laws have been drafted by anti-choice organizations representing a small but determined minority. Around one-third of all such restrictions passed since the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade have come during this six-year span and the deluge shows no sign of slowing.

These laws are invasive, fact-averse and medically unnecessary — and specifically designed to work in concert with one another to create a de facto ban on abortion. Some force doctors to lie to their patients; others impose unnecessary and burdensome compliance costs designed to shutter abortion clinics, or add arbitrary delays and expenses on women seeking care to which they are legally entitled.

Lawmakers have been able to get away with such an unpopular agenda because the public remains largely unaware of the extent of the crisis. Sixty percent of the Center’s poll respondents did not know that the number of abortion restrictions has increased in the last six years — let alone at an unprecedented rate. This is by design, reflecting a pivot away from direct, national attacks on Roe to an under-the-radar strategy of quietly passing laws that gradually undermine our rights.

The consequences are grave. Most immediately, restricting abortion access prevents people – often the most poor and vulnerable among us — from receiving the medical care that they need and are entitled to by law.

Of course, there are also long-term consequences to allowing the gradual erosion of our reproductive rights, because those rights don’t exist in isolation. As the Supreme Court has noted, reproductive freedom lies at the heart of the promise of human dignity, self-determination and equality.

And while organizations like the Center for Reproductive Rights and its allies have succeeded in suing to block the most egregious abortion restrictions, litigation is a long and expensive process and the pace of these restrictions is accelerating.

It’s now up to elected officials to listen — to the advocates coming to Washington this week calling for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act and to the rest of their constituents at home. Public support for abortion and women’s health issues is clear and the need for federal protections has never been more urgent. It’s time for politicians to stop the anti-abortion onslaught in its tracks and provide the sort of nationwide safeguards that Americans want and deserve.

The public support is there. Now it’s time for lawmakers to act.

Susan Inman is the chief counsel for federal policy & advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Tags abortion access abortion rights Center for Reproductive Rights Donald Trump

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