Anti-abortion efforts from states seem to come in waves. We'll get a little respite, but then some event or election cycle starts it off again, and here we go. The big trends a few years ago seemed to be mandatory ultrasound bills and "personhood" amendments. Recently, Republican state legislators have been pressing for restrictions on abortion clinics, doctors, and medications, as well as abortion bans after 18-20 weeks pregnancy.
In Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Tuesday that requires doctors to follow outdated protocols when prescribing abortion-inducing drugs. The old protocols, set when the Food and Drug Administration first approved abortion-drug mifepristone (also known as RU-486) in 2000, were based on clinical trials involving women no more than seven weeks pregnant. So the FDA approved mifepristone for use at up to seven weeks pregnant, at the dose given in the trial.
But doctors commonly prescribe mifepristone "off-label," i.e., in ways other than exactly intended by the FDA (a common practice for all sorts of medications, and okay in the absense of additional state regulation). Research conducted in the interim 14 years since mifepristone was first approved has shown that the drug is safe and effective through 63 days pregnancy, and can be taken at lower doses. For no apparent reason other than restricting abortion options, the Oklahoma law will force doctors to revert back to the old standards.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, GOP Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation (18 weeks from conception), the midpoint of a full-term pregnancy. This is despite the fact that the state's only abortion clinic doesn't perform the procedure after 16 weeks.
Most states allow abortion until the point of fetal viability—when the fetus could survive outside the uterus on its own—which is around 24 weeks. Nine states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Texas) ban abortions after 22 weeks gestation, or 20 weeks from conception, with various exceptions for health issues, rape, and incest.
Arizona is the only state other than Mississippi to attempt an abortion ban 18 weeks from conception. It was blocked by a federal appeals court, where judges found it unconstitutional. But Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus notes that "Mississippi is in a conservative federal appeals court district, the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, so a legal challenge might have a different outcome."