With more than 70 anti-abortion provisions enacted in 2013, abortion rights are in more danger than ever before. Whether through legislative methods or citizen initiative campaigns, many states are considering "personhood" amendments, which would redefine the definition of personhood as beginning the moment sperm meets eggs. In others, laws have been passed to limit the number of doctors who can provide abortions and to reduce the number of abortion clinics. In nine states, women are forbidden from receiving an abortion after 20 weeks.
Why have recent health care initiatives been countered with a reduction in abortion rights? Often, politicians themselves are spearheading the movement. But, pro-life advocacy groups are also playing a large role in the creation of anti-abortion legislation as right-wing donors contribute millions towards the cause.
Even in 2014, we can't take abortion rights for granted. Here are six states that show why:
A law passed on October 31, 2013 requires that doctors have admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics. This measure resulted in the closure of over 12 abortion clinics, while others were forced to scale back their services. At least one in three women in Texas do not presently have access to an abortion clinic. In the Rio Grande Valley, some women must travel as far as 300 miles to find a clinic.
Thanks to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that advocate for reproductive rights, the constitutionality of these measures was debated on Jan. 6 this year, although no ruling was given. It's expected that the conservative judges will sustain the measures passed on Oct. 13.
In April of 2013, Mississippi state legislature passed a law that requires all doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Because many hospitals won't grant admitting privileges, all but one of Mississippi's abortion clinics have closed.
What's in store for 2014? The last remaining clinic, The Jackson Women's Health Organization, was given until Jan. 11 to comply with the new legislation regarding admitting privileges. Since it's become clear that the clinic will likely not be able to make the necessary changes, a date has been set to appeal the anti-abortion legislature on March 3. Until then, it's possible that Mississippians will have no access to abortion clinics.
In North Dakota, the personhood campaign of 2013 was shockingly effective. A radical proposal to redefine personhood as the moment when sperm meets egg was included within a constitutional amendment that, if passed, will drastically reduce abortion rights. In addition, the bill aims to outlaw some forms of birth control, reduce fertility treatment, and restrict stem cell research. The proposed amendment will be on the general election ballot in 2014.
Despite the disapproval of Michigan governor Rick Snyder (R), anti-choice groups and politicians successfully banned insurance coverage for abortion in 2013. The most shocking part — the provision even includes cases of rape and incest. These changes will take effect in March 2014, although it's possible that an appeal may be able to reverse the extreme nature of the legislation.
In 2013, anti-choice organization Personhood Colorado collected more than 140,000 signatures in order to put a fetal personhood amendment on the ballot in 2014. The amendment, known as the Brady amendment, is named for the unborn fetus of Heather Surovik, who was struck by a drunk driver when eight months pregnant. In an effort to prosecute the driver for homicidal charges, Surovik spearheaded a movement to redefine the legal definition of fetus to that of person. As in North Dakota, the personhood amendment could drastically reduce abortion rights and other reproductive rights for women in Colorado.
Although Wisconsin legislators have not yet passed any amendments to redefine personhood or limit abortion rights, groups like Wisconsin Family Action and Wisconsin Right to Life are eager to change this. Such groups should be taken seriously, considering that Wisconsin Club for Growth, an association of wealthy money managers, has contributed millions to their campaigns. In 2014, Wisconsin anti-choice organizations are likely to make more headway towards anti-abortion legislation considering their large donor base and increasing public support.