With 43 abortion-restricting provisions enacted just last year, 2012 has been referred to as the second-worst year for abortion rights. Although that’s less than the 92 abortion restrictions passed in 2011, it doesn’t make these new restrictions any less appalling for pro-choice Americans.
The new restrictions introduced in 2012 are mostly related to ultrasounds, insurance coverage, age limits, parental involvement, late-term abortion bans, mandatory counseling, and clinic regulations.
By the end of 2012, ultrasounds prior to an abortion were mandatory in eight states, even when the ultrasound is medically unnecessary. States have been working to mandate ultrasounds prior to abortions since the mid-90s. Ultrasounds are used as tools to personify the fetus, by providing a stimulating visual for the purpose of dissuading patients from abortion.
But it doesn’t stop at visuals — laws passed in Louisiana and Oklahoma now require the fetal heartbeat to be audible to the patient, further personifying the fetus. In Virginia providers are required to suggest the option of listening to the fetal heartbeat before the abortion. Prior to their abortion, patients in Virginia that live within 100 miles from their clinic must now undergo an ultrasound 24 hours before their abortion (although they are already required a 24-hour waiting period) — compelling them to make two trips to the clinic before the procedure.
Forced counseling sessions are other forms of intimidation used to sway patient decisions. From the recent review and study about laws affecting reproductive health and rights conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, women in South Dakota and Arizona "seeking an abortion to obtain counseling that includes inaccurate or irrelevant information. Arizona’s provision requires the state health department to develop counseling materials that include information on coerced abortion and the 'possible detrimental psychological effects of abortion.'"
In addition to the mandatory counseling, Arizona is trying to enact a provision that forbids abortions at 18 weeks postfertilization without exceptions of a woman’s life and heath. Louisiana became the seventh state to enact a provision banning abortions at 18 weeks postfertilization.
Perhaps one of the most startling abortion restrictions enacted last year amended a law in South Carolina that once provided women who had been raped free abortions. As the Guttmacher Institute report noted:
“South Carolina amended the long-standing requirement that the state employees’ health plan may cover abortion only when necessary to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest. The new provision permits taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for abortions only in cases of life endangerment; the cost in cases of rape or incest must now be paid entirely from employees’ premiums.”
But South Carolina isn’t the only state restricting abortion coverage. Four states banned abortion coverage in the insurance exchanged introduced by the Affordable Care Act.
Although the number of abortion restrictions passed in 2012 is less than half of that in 2011, last year set the record for the second highest annual number of new abortion restrictions. But with the percentage of pro-choice Americans reaching a record low of 41% in 2012, should we be surprised by the high count of abortion restrictions being passed? Maybe not — but that doesn’t change fact that these new provisions are invasive, humiliating and insensitive.