July 2, 2013
Pro-choice protesters in Texas. (Mike Stone/Reuters)
Protesters cheer Monday before the start of a special session of the Legislature in Austin, Tex. (Mike Stone/Reuters)

The most striking thing about Wendy Davis’ filibuster in the Texas state senate, beside the filibuster itself, was the bill in question. Senate Bill 5 was a collection of abortion regulations, including a requirement that providers maintain hospital privileges within 30 miles of any facility, that would have ended clinic access for countless Texas women. Yes, abortion would have been legal in the state, but it also would have been limited to women near urban centers, where clinics are closer to hospitals.

These laws, which try to restrict abortion by limiting access through onerous requirements, are popular with Republicans, who have pushed them in states across the country. It’s not hard to see the appeal; these laws claim safety as their chief concern and often avoid close scrutiny from voters who otherwise support abortion rights. At least five states passed such laws this year. They also come with a host of other abortion restrictions, and they go into effect this week.

In Alabama, House Bill 57 reclassifies abortion providers as clinics that provide outpatient surgery, requiring them to meet certain fire codes. They must submit architectural drawings and sprinkler plans within 180 days and receive a certificate of compliance within a year. For many clinics, this requires a full redesign, which can’t be accomplished in such a short period. The Alabama law also requires doctors, when performing abortions on minors, to ask patients to state the name and age of the father of the fetus. The patient can refuse.

Likewise, an Indiana law puts tight restrictions on prescribing abortion pills; any health provider that provides the pills must abide by the same regulations as medical abortion clinics, and, as ABC News notes, “the secretary of state’s office must now draft a new set of regulations for sanitation standards, staff qualifications, necessary emergency equipment and other requirements for clinics.”

Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota have also enacted laws that aim for something similar, in addition to imposing greater and more onerous restrictions. In Kansas, for instance, new laws bars patients from suing doctors if the latter withheld information — on birth defects, for instance — that could have led to an abortion.

Earlier this year, as marriage equality was being argued in the Supreme Court, there was a question of whether the country was moving in two different directions on key social issues, with greater acceptance for same-sex marriage and greater opposition to abortion. I’m not sure that’s true — the states where lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Americans can’t get married also tend to be the states where abortion is highly regulated or effectively illegal. But it is true that there’s been a spike in intensity around both issues, as pro-marriage equality advocates make huge gains by challenging laws, and anti-abortion activists do the same by passing them.

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect, where he writes a blog.