Last year was a watershed for abortion restrictions: States passed 83 laws restricting access, more than four times the number passed in 2010.
This year, states legislators are introducing just as many bills targeting abortion rights as they did in 2011. But, as this chart from the Guttmacher Institute shows, a lot fewer are becoming laws:
The political composition of state legislatures did not change between 2011 and 2012. What gives? Guttmacher Institute runs through a few possible explanations:
Election-year sessions tend to be shorter, and focus more on bread-and-butter issues, as opposed to social issues. In addition, mirroring the situation nationally, legislatures in states such as New Hampshire and Indiana appear to be in near-total gridlock, seeming able to tackle only “essential” issues relating to spending and basic state services.
At the same time, it appears that public pushback has been successful in blocking action on some of the more extreme abortion restrictions, and that vocal opposition in some states is impeding action on restrictions in others. For example, the outcry against a measure that would have required a woman to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to an abortion in Virginia is widely seen as having blunted the momentum behind similar provisions in Alabama, Idaho and Pennsylvania.
That being said, it’s not like abortion restrictions are going away: 39 of them have so far become law in 2012. The laws look pretty similar to what made it through last year. Three states passed laws – Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina – restricting state family planning dollars from going to abortion providers. Legislators in Oklahoma and Louisiana moved bills that a requirement to listen to the fetal heartbeat, or at least be offered the opportunity to do so.