If it feels like you've been seeing more headlines than usual about attempts to restrict abortion rights across the country, it's not just you. States across the nation have introduced an alarming number of anti-abortion bills in 2019 compared to 2018, according to a new report from Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute, a research center focused on reproductive health policy.
In their 2019 State Abortion Restriction Snapshot, Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 41 states have seen more than 250 bills introduced in state legislatures this year alone. About half of those bills have the goal of banning abortion entirely or in certain circumstances. Six states currently have only one abortion provider serving the whole state: the Dakotas, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Mississippi.
“Energized by a new Supreme Court, anti-abortion activists and politicians have kicked into high gear their decades-long agenda to ban abortion through a series of increasingly radical and dangerous abortion bans," said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, in a Planned Parenthood press release. "At their core, abortion restrictions are about exerting control and power over pregnant people."
Compared with 2018, states have also introduced almost 63 percent more six-week abortion bans so far this year.
Six-week abortion bans are often called "heartbeat bills" because they attempt to ban abortion once doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. They effectively amount to a full abortion ban, because many women don't even realize they're pregnant until right around or after six weeks.
As the Guttmacher Institute explained, numerous six-week abortion bans have already been struck down in court when states passed them in previous years. Now that opponents of reproductive rights see perceived allies in both the White House and the Supreme Court, however, they've moved to the forefront of the strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"Today, the reality we live in is a terrifying one for women around the country," Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said in a press release. "Access to abortion care is disappearing in states, forcing women to travel hundreds of miles for health care or to go without health care completely."
"The surge in attempts to ban abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy drives home that the end goal of anti-abortion politicians and activists is to ban all abortion — at any point during pregnancy and for any reason,” Nash said in the same release, referring to six-week bans.
These moves by Republican lawmakers come despite numerous polls showing that a growing majority of Americans support Roe and don't want to see abortion rights disappear in the United States. And as Wen explained, closing clinics that provide abortion services also prevents women from receiving other necessary care, like cancer screenings, birth control, and STD testing.
"The politicians pushing these dangerous policies are directly interfering with medical practice and endangering women’s lives," Wen said in her statement. "Abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure that nearly 1 in 4 women will have in their lifetime."
With so many state governments working to limit abortion access, reproductive rights advocates can take action by telling lawmakers in their state what they think of their proposed legislation. As Wen explained:
"Those of us who work to protect women’s health and rights must aggressively push for policies that protect and expand reproductive health access in the states, which are the critical backstop to protecting safe, legal abortion."