Restrictions on abortions are getting harsher according to data from the Guttmacher Institute. In the past two years there has been a wave of new restrictions. According to Elizabeth Nash, the state issues manager of Guttmacher, “What we’ve seen over time is a wholesale change in the abortion landscape.” While there is still an international right to abortion, individual states determine the degree and severity of restrictions to the procedure. According to the Guttmacher Policy Review, in 2000 one-third of women lived in a state that opposed abortion, in 2011 one-half of women now do.
Some major restrictions include limiting access to the drug mifepristone that induces early stage abortion. Now, in order to take the drug a doctor must be present and the medication cannot be prescribed over the phone. Another hot button issue, addressed in the Affordable Care Act, are laws surrounding health insurance policies and whether they will cover abortion. One punitive law requires abortion clinics to show images of fetuses in an ultrasound before the procedure.
The main issue that researchers are finding with these restrictions is that they have nothing to do with the concern of the welfare of the mother, but rather they are making the choice more of an emotionally difficult decision. When the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, they clearly stipulated that the mother’s welfare should be above that of the fetus, but in recent legislation the spirit of that ruling has been overlooked or completely negated.
The restrictions by states vary — the most restrictive state is Oklahoma with 21 restrictions and the least is Oregon with none. However, when weighing the severity of the limitations themselves we see a different picture. Arizona becomes the most restrictive with Oklahoma falling to the fourth harshest. The most concise interpretation of these graphs is that there are so many different types of restrictions and degrees such as “waiting periods, physician requirements, limitations on insurance, parental involvement, and ultrasound requirements,” that each state can become its own gavel wielding judge in determining what justifies a medical need for abortion or whether that procedure is carried out with a harsh rebuke.
The latest case in Idaho, where a judge threw out the state prosecutor’s charge against a woman for receiving an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy shows that some judges are fed up with the loopholes that state legislatures are finding in the system. Going forward, the Supreme Court may have to re-visit the abortion issue in order to specify what necessitates an abortion and more clearly state a woman’s rights. Even on a day like International Women’s Day, there is still a long way to go.