In 2014, only 26 new restrictions on abortion were passed by state legislatures — down from 70 in 2013, and the lowest number of restrictions that have been passed in any year since the Tea Party midterm sweep in 2010. Over the past four years, 231 new restrictions on abortion have passed into law, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute. For comparison, from 2001 to 2010 — the entire decade before then — that number was only 189.
The report from the Guttmacher Institute — a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance and protect reproductive and sexual health — did have a couple positive takeaways: 17 states proposed a total of 95 measures that would expand access to abortion. Only four of them passed into law, but it was the most positive measures related to abortion proposed in a single year since 1990.
On the other hand, the study also showed how many more states have made it nearly impossible to access abortion care. In the year 2000, 13 states had laws that qualified them as "hostile to abortion rights." In 2010, there were 22 "hostile" states, and five that were considered "extremely hostile."
As of 2014, 27 states are ranked as "hostile" and 18 have achieved the "extremely hostile" title.
"In most of the states where legislatures have been hard at work passing restrictions on women's health care, they're kind of out of options at this point," said Jodi Jacobson, the president and editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check. The site focuses on new related to sexual and reproductive health care, laws, and justice issues.
"Many states have run out of the things they can possibly do," she continued. Pro-life lobbying groups have been circulating the same types of model legislation for the past few years: Things like fetal heartbeat bills, "informed consent" laws for parents and partners, and forcing abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. State legislators have proposed these measures, and they've either passed already or have proved unpopular enough with voters that they're unlikely to get another shot at becoming law.
Republicans scored another major legislative victory with the 2014 midterm elections, which gave them control of both the House and the Senate. Jacobson said both federal and state legislatures will probably target abortion in more indirect ways in 2015: Cutting funding for family planning clinics, promoting abstinence-only sex education, and pushing for more exemptions on the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.
But Jacobson said the 95 proposals to expand access could be a sign of good things to come, hopefully, from more progressive states.
"I wouldn't call it a trend yet, but it's a nascent effort to turn around what's been an onslaught of attacks on access to healthcare," Jacobson said.