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2013 Is Shaping Up To Be The Worst Year For Reproductive Freedom In Recent History

News like this continues to discourage me, especially as more and more laws are passed that restrict women’s rights over their own bodies. What century are we in again? Clearly not the 21st, especially if right-wing conservatives (the majority of which are men) continue to pass legislation that strips the power of choice from women. For shame.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the 2013 legislative session is on track to be yet another record-breaking year for state-level restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. As states’ current legislative sessions begin to come to a close, lawmakers have so far introduced more than 300 different abortion restrictions this year, as detailed in a map from the ACLU (click here to see the interactive version).

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 2011 saw the highest number of anti-abortion restrictions enacted on the state level since 1985, when the women’s health organization first began tracking the data. 2012 was right behind with the second highest number of restrictive abortion laws. And now, even following an presidential election season that heavily emphasized the ongoing War on Women — post-election polling suggests that Mitt Romney’s right-wing positions on women’s health issues may have cost him the White House — local lawmakers in red states are continuing to pursue a stringently anti-abortion agenda.

On a call with reporters, representatives from the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom project pointed out that abortion opponents have been more aggressive about their goals in 2013, and predicted this year will “go down in record books” for advancing some of the most stringent legislation this nation has seen since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion 40 years ago. The ACLU considers the mounting pile of state-level restrictions to be a “coordinated campaign” to eventually ban abortion in every clinic in every state. The group points out that there are three prongs of attack in this national strategy: making abortion services inaccessible for women, making it impossible for abortion doctors to continue their work, and forcing abortion clinics to close their doors.

Since the first part of that three-tiered strategy often involves outright bans on abortion, like the unprecedented 6-week ban in North Dakota and 12-week ban in Arkansas, it tends to incite the most outrage and receive the most media coverage. But the second and third tactics employed by the right wing are also incredibly successful at limiting women’s reproductive options — and, since those laws can more easily fly under the radar, they can actually be more dangerous.

In 2013, more states than ever before chipped away at women’s abortion rights by enacting unconstitutional 20-week abortion bans, imposing restrictions on the abortion pill, preventing women from using their insurance plans to cover abortion care, forcing women to undergo mandatory ultrasounds, requiring doctors to tell women medically-disputed information about abortion risks, and forcing women to wait 24 hours or more before they’re allowed to proceed with an abortion. Regardless of whether outright abortion bans are successfully blocked in court, the ACLU warns that these indirect methods of restricting abortion access will eventually prevent women from exercising their reproductive freedom even while Roe still stands.

And the War on Women encompasses issues that have traditionally been less politically polarizing than abortion access. When taking into account other legislation intended to police women’s body, like measures regarding birth control or teenage pregnancy, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that states proposed more than 600 provisions about reproduction in the first three months of 2013 alone.


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