U.S. Passed 47 New Anti-Abortion Laws in 2015

Already these new measures are being challenged-and blocked-by the courts.



In 2015, U.S. states introduced upwards of 350 anti-abortion bills and passed 47 of them, according to a report from the Center for Reproductive Rights.* This is down somewhat from 2013, but an increase over the number of measures passed in 2014.

"Not content with trotting out the same old restrictions on safe and legal abortion, politicians [in 2015] introduced new and increasingly troubling ways to come between women and their trusted health care providers," said Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup. 

Molly Redden at The Guardian details some of these recent anti-abortion trends

In a break from previous years, the laws most heavily favored by abortion foes in 2015 pose direct barriers to women seeking abortions. Earlier laws were aimed at causing abortion clinics to close. This year, two states, Arkansas and Tennessee, passed laws that force women wanting an abortion to make two in-person trips to the abortion clinic instead of one. The first trip, which must take place two full days before the second, is for anti-abortion counseling. Florida passed a similar, 24-hour waiting period that is the subject of a court fight. And North Carolina and Oklahoma established a 72-hour waiting period between a woman's first call to an abortion clinic and her appointment.

Other popular laws restrict certain methods of abortion with little to no supportive evidence from mainstream medical groups. One of these is a model law appearing to criminalize a procedure commonly used when a woman is more than 12 weeks pregnant. Another narrows the window of time in which women can use medication to end their abortions – a more private, less expensive option that has made abortion widely available to many rural women. A bill passed in Arkansas even suggests to women that they can reverse an abortion performed with medication, an assertion which is not backed up by any credible evidence.

Already these new measures are being challenged—and blocked—by the courts. 

Another 2015 trend was legislation to prohibit private health insurers from offering abortion coverage and/or bar state health-insurance exchanges from including plans with such coverage. And jumping on the human-trafficking-awareness bandwagon, a Texas measure now requires all staff at abortion clinics (and no other types of medical facilities) to take a training course on how to spot sex-trafficking victims. 

U.S. legislators last year also introduced hundreds of measures designed to roll back abortion restrictions or otherwise bolster reproductive freedom—although very few of these measures were passed. Brights spots include a successful Oregon measure allowing pharmacists to provide birth control pills and patches without a prescription; an Illinois law allowing advanced-practice nurses to write prescriptions for oral contraception; and a New York measure (still awaiting the governor's signature) ending the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners while they're in labor.  

Other "pro-choice" measures touted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, however, attempted to sacrifice religious freedom at the alter of contraception and abortion access. California passed a bill requiring religiously based pregnancy-counseling centers to offer information about abortion, and several states introduced (but failed to pass) legislation that would require all employers, including those with religious objections, to offer employee health-care benefits that include the full spectrum of contraception coverage. 

* The Center for Reproductive Rights says "nearly 400" measures introduced, but it's counting at least 20 measures to defund or end state Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, which I wouldn't count as "anti abortion" bills per se, even if they're mostly motivated by abortion animus.