After legislators passed bills modifying abortion restrictions and coverage last week, a new study shows a growing number of states are becoming more restrictive to abortion access and rights.
The Guttmacher Institute, a group working to advance sexual and reproductive health rights, said in a study released last Thursday that 55 percent of all reproductive-aged women lived in a state “hostile” to abortion rights in 2011, a 24 percent increase since 2000.
“This has been a trend over the past decade, and it shows no signs of abating,” said Elizabeth Nash, one of the authors of the study. “All of this reflects the makeup of state legislatures that have become more conservative.”
The study defined three types of states: “supportive,” which only enacted one restriction from a list of actions that the institute claims restricts abortion, “middle-ground,” which enacted two to three and “hostile” for those enacting four or more.
It defined Wisconsin as a “middle-ground” state in both 2000 and 2011. Wisconsin was one of 35 states that remained in the same category. However, 15 states switched categories and each one, the study claims, became more restrictive.
The list of abortion restrictions the study used included prohibiting abortion coverage in private health insurance plans and requiring an extended waiting period paired with a counseling requirement for an abortion conducted in person.
The Wisconsin Legislature passed similar bills last week, including a bill restricting abortion coverage under health exchanges created by the federal health care reform act.
Another bill requires that doctors perform a physical examination before administering an abortion-inducing drug. Doctors would have to inquire if the patient was being coerced or not, and the bill would also require a woman to return to the clinic 12 to 18 days later to confirm termination of the pregnancy.
Susan Armacost, legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said the report ignores the statistics of coercive abortions and said that if abortion advocates really cared about the welfare of women, they would support the legislation. She said abortions are still available for women and that to call this proposal hostile is a “bunch of bologna.”
“How is that harmful to women? To give them more information and time?” Armacost asked.
Armacost said many of the measures, such as providing pamphlets on abortion, requiring multiple visits as well as physical examinations and requiring doctors to ensure an abortion is not coercive, will protect the health of women and do not restrict abortion access.
However, Nash said in-person consultation with more medical visits would make it more difficult for women to get abortions as they may have to skip work to make the appointments.