The Democratic Party may control in the House, Senate, and Oval Office, but a majority of state legislatures are run by Republicans, and their anti-abortion agenda has advanced at warp speed since January. According to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, 2021 is on track to become the most pernicious year for anti-abortion legislation in decades.
In the last few days alone, 28 new anti-abortion measures were signed into law in seven states, accounting for nearly half of the anti-abortion restrictions passed in 2021 so far and the most passed in a single week in a decade. Guttmacher reports that this week’s count includes “a near-total ban on abortion in Oklahoma, six-week abortion bans in Idaho and Oklahoma, a 20-week ban in Montana, and a ban on abortion for non-lethal genetic anomalies in Arizona.”
Since January, there have been 536 abortion restrictions, including 146 abortion bans, introduced across 46 states (all counts current as of April 29, 2021). A whopping 61 of those restrictions have been enacted across 13 states, including eight bans.
To put those figures in context, by this time in 2011—the year previously regarded as the most hostile to abortion rights since Roe was decided—42 restrictions had been enacted, including six bans.
Many state legislatures, including Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, are attempting to impose severe restrictions on abortion clinics, triggering the same obstacles that were central to the landmark Supreme Court case Whole Women’s Health v Hellerstedt. The Court ruled 5-3 that Texas could not enforce anti-abortion legislation that causes an “undue burden” for those seeking an abortion. But it looks as if multiple state legislatures are testing the waters in hopes that these new measures have sympathetic allies on the majority conservative Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, other states are trying another approach:
Another alarming trend is states’ continued focus on restricting medication abortion, with four new restrictions in Montana, three in Indiana and another restriction in Arizona. This trend is a direct response by antiabortion legislators to the push for broader telehealth access to that method during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s April 12 decision to allow patients to receive medication abortion pills by mail during the pandemic.
In March, Jezebel reported on this influx of anti-abortion legislation, noting that “the landscape for abortion rights is perhaps the bleakest it has been in the years since Roe.” This abject defiance of Roe v. Wade has no signs of slowing down, and with anti-abortion allies wielding power over the highest Court in the land, we can expect this trend to continue. Unless the political makeup of state legislatures change, the prospect of abortion access in all 50 states will be nothing more than fantasy.