States have enacted an unprecedented number of anti-abortion laws in the past five years, and 2015 continued that trend. According to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, state lawmakers proposed nearly 400 bills restricting abortion in 2015, and 47 of those bills were enacted. Some of those 47 bills contained more than one restriction, and the Guttmacher Institute estimates that a total of 57 new abortion restrictions became law. Arkansas passed six new anti-abortion laws, the most of any state in 2015.
That's a lot of restrictions, but many of them may seem familiar. Keep in mind that the maps below only cover new laws passed in 2015, so they don't provide a full picture of where abortion is least accessible in America. Some states, like Texas, have already passed some of the most stringent statewide anti-abortion laws out there.
Several of the new 2015 laws have been temporarily blocked by courts while lawsuits against them move forward. Reproductive rights advocates say that some new laws directly violate women's constitutional right to obtain an abortion without an "undue burden" being placed in their way, and that other laws violate doctors' First Amendment rights by requiring them to give patients information that conflicts with their best medical judgment. Advocates say none of the new laws are medically necessary, and all of them are specifically designed to restrict access to abortion in one way or another.
Here are some of the major trends in 2015 abortion restrictions:
Waiting periods and mandatory biased counseling
Five states enacted or extended waiting periods, which typically require a woman to make two trips to the doctor in order to get an abortion. Those two trips might have to be separated by 24, 48, or even 72 hours, and weekends and holidays might not count. Anti-abortion lawmakers hope it might encourage women to change their minds about abortion, which is unlikely to happen. Waiting periods do cause delays in a procedure where time is of the essence, and increase the risk that an abusive partner might find out that a woman is seeking an abortion. Waiting periods can make it more difficult for women to access abortion because they need to take more time off work, travel multiple times, or arrange for child care.
Sometimes these waiting periods come with a requirement that doctors give women certain information about abortion — and that information isn't always supported by medical evidence or the doctor's best judgment. One new 2015 law required doctors to tell women that medication abortions can be "reversed," even though the evidence for this is dubious at best.
The Center for Reproductive Rights notes that if Florida's new 24-hour waiting period weren't being blocked by the courts, every single southern state would require a woman to make an extra unnecessary trip to the doctor to access abortion.
Bans and restrictions on certain abortion procedures
This was a new one for 2015, and a potentially dangerous trend for abortion access: Kansas and Oklahoma banned the most common and safest form of second-trimester abortion, dilation and extraction (D&E). This could effectively eliminate second-trimester abortion in those states, or make it more complicated to perform. Both laws are temporarily blocked by courts, however.
Two states, West Virginia and Wisconsin, passed bans on abortion after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest and narrow exceptions to protect a woman's health. West Virginia also allows a narrow exception for fetal anomalies that are fatal. Twenty-week bans are considered a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade because they ban abortion before a fetus is viable. Several similar laws have been blocked by courts, but others, including these two new ones, haven't yet.
Lawmakers also kept up their trend of banning or restricting medication abortion — either restricting rural-dwelling women's access to it by banning doctors from using telemedicine to prescribe it, or requiring doctors to use outdated protocols for the medication that are more expensive and risky for women.
Tennessee became the latest state to mandate surgical abortion providers adhere to hospital-like standards, which often requires clinics to choose between spending millions of dollars on renovations or simply closing as we've seen in Texas. The law is temporarily blocked by courts.
New laws in Arkansas and Texas made it harder for minors to access abortion. Texas's law is particularly onerous for teens who are abused or otherwise can't involve their parents in their abortion decision — it allows them no recourse if courts don't decide on their case in a timely manner, and it threatens their privacy by requiring them to have their case heard in their county of residence. The same law also requires everyone having an abortion to prove they're not a minor with a photo ID — something not everyone has, especially low-income and undocumented women.
Other regulatory burdens on abortion providers included Indiana increasing its record-keeping requirements for abortion providers, Oklahoma turning minor violations of abortion regulations into a felony (that one's blocked in courts), and South Dakota prohibiting doctors from taking payment until the 72-hour waiting period is up. North Carolina targeted Planned Parenthood by prohibiting family planning funds from going to any organization that also performs abortions. And Arizona and Rhode Island passed new restrictions on abortion insurance coverage: Arizona eliminated women's ability to pay for an additional insurance rider covering abortion, and Rhode Island required at least one insurance plan in each tier of the Affordable Care Act exchanges not to cover abortion.