2012 Saw the Second Highest Number of Restrictions on Abortion in Nearly 20 Years

New laws restricting access to reproductive health services, especially abortions, have been making headlines for two years now, with a record-high number of new restrictions in 2011. 2012 came in second, with 43 new restrictions to 2011’s 92.

The 2012 elections were seen as a sweeping victory for advocates of women’s rights, with a record number of female representatives reelected, a conservative presidential challenger defeated, and several proponents of 2011’s restrictions unseated. Granted, there were no new laws to increase women’s access to reproductive services, but we’ve taken a small step back toward sanity.


2011 was the pinnacle of what became known as the war on women, according to numbers provided by the Guttmacher Institute. It might take a long time to repair the damage that’s been done to women’s reproductive rights, but with the immense opposition to reproductive freedom, stemming the tide of new restrictions is nothing to sneeze at. 

That said, it's sad that a year in which 43 new restrictions were passed on a woman’s right to choose could possibly be seen as progress. In 2012, three states passed bans on abortions after 20 weeks, which many believe to be in violation of Roe v. Wade, eight states required medically unnecessary and invasive procedures prior to receiving an abortion, and 20 states restricted abortion coverage through state-sponsored health care.

18 states now require that women be given false information as part of mandatory counseling before being allowed an abortion, “such as asserting a link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer or negative mental health consequences.” 10 states now require waiting periods, requiring women to take two trips and potentially running out the clock until it’s too late to receive a legal abortion.

For a comprehensive breakdown of the various types of restrictions passed in 2012, look at the Guttmacher Institute’s report here.

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Lilly O'Donnell

Lilly O'Donnell is a freelance writer, currently working on her first book.

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