POLITICS
03/14/2014 12:13 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2014

State Lawmakers Can't Stop Introducing Abortion Bills

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Conservative state lawmakers are showing no signs of fatigue this year in their quest to chip away at access to legal abortion. There are currently 282 abortion restrictions pending in state legislatures, compared to the 267 bills that were pending at this point last year.

The number is especially surprising, given that states typically have shorter legislative sessions in election years, and that two of the most reliably anti-abortion legislatures, Texas and North Dakota, are out of session this year entirely.

"2014 is shaping up to be another year where abortion restrictions take center stage in the states," said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, the reproductive health research organization that provided the data.

State lawmakers enacted more anti-abortion bills between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the entire previous decade, effectively shutting down dozens of abortion clinics throughout the country.

The same kinds of bills are being introduced this year, mandating extended waiting periods before abortions, placing gestational limits on when the procedure can be performed, requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals, tightening parental consent laws, requiring clinics to meet strict building standards and placing restrictions on medication abortion.

Missouri is leading the pack, with 32 restrictions pending in the state legislature, despite the fact that the state only has one abortion clinic. The state House already passed one bill tripling the mandatory waiting period before abortions from 24 to 72 hours.

Democratic lawmakers in Missouri, who are far outnumbered in both the state House and Senate, are frustrated by their colleagues' relentless focus on abortion.

"There seems to be no end to the amount of bills that have been filed on this subject," House Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D) told HuffPost in a phone interview. "Unfortunately, a lot of them have been filed by men, and I just think women's rights issues shouldn't be decided by men."

Two state legislatures, Mississippi and West Virginia, have recently advanced or passed bans on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling, which protects legal abortion until viability. Arizona lawmakers passed a similar law, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down, and the Supreme Court declined to review that decision in January.

Alabama state lawmakers also advanced a draconian set of abortion restrictions this month, one of which would make it a crime to perform an abortion after the fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Some national Republican leaders have suggested that the GOP soften its image with women by avoiding social issues like abortion. For the first time ever, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference had no pro-life panel this year.

Still, lawmakers at an anti-abortion gala last week insisted that the party must maintain its focus on social issues, with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.

"One of the biggest prizes in 2016 will be who picks the next Supreme Court judges," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "Wouldn't it be wonderful to win the White House in 2016, undo Obamacare, put America on a different path and have a president who defends little babies?"

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