The rapid surge of state abortion restrictions — in one chart

Abortion was at the forefront of the state legislative debate during the past three years -- so much so that states added more restrictions to the books from 2011-2013 than during the entire preceding decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive health research organization that tracks such things.

More than 200 abortion restriction laws were passed and signed into law from 2011 to 2013, according to Guttmacher's data. That's a very sharp uptick from the pace of the previous decade: From 2001 to 2010, 189 such laws were enacted , the data show.

(Chart via Guttmacher Institute)
(Chart via Guttmacher Institute)

Twenty-two states enacted 70 measures which sought to tighten abortion laws in 2013, according to Guttmacher's data. The 70 laws accounted for about half of all (141) the provisions nationwide related to reproductive matters. Only 2011 outpaced 2013 in terms of new abortion restrictions.

Some of the legislative battles over abortion last year played out before the national stage. Most visible was a fight in Texas in which state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) launched a marathon filibuster in June to block a bill designed to implement strict new restrictions. The measure later passed as Republicans launched a renewed effort. Still, Davis's resistance catapulted her onto the national radar. She's now a candidate for governor.

In June, the U.S. House passed a 20-week abortion ban that went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The Guttmacher data reflect a reality about the abortion debate that is also true about other hot-button issues like education and guns: Often, what's happening in the states is more consequential than what's happening or not happening in Washington.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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