The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Where abortion opponents—and backers—rule, in five maps

Placeholder while article actions load

By now it's become clear that states, rather than Capitol Hill, have become the true battleground for abortion policy. But what has been a little less obvious is how outnumbered abortion rights advocates are compared to their foes when it comes to unified control of state governments.

There are only seven states where abortion rights proponents control the governorship and state legislature, compared to 21 states where abortion opponents do, according to a new analysis by NARAL Pro-Choice America. Take a look at this map:

This helps explain why abortion rights groups are now scrambling to play a more active role in state politics, rather than focusing all their efforts on the federal government and legal battles, both of which have historically played an outsized role when it comes to determining abortion access in the United States.

"Our opponents have become highly skilled at identifying the levers of power on the state and federal government and placing their people there through elections and appointments," Donna Crane, NARAL's vice president of public policy, told reporters Tuesday.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, said that the political gains her side have made in recent years has more to do with both advances in medical technology -- which  allow future parents to see a more vivid image of a fetus -- and the growing number of female elected officials who oppose abortion.

"It's due to many factors, but perhaps most importantly it's the growing recognition among the electorate of the humanity of the developing unborn child as seen by millions every year in high resolution 3-D ultrasounds," Ferguson said. "These beautiful pictures of babies in the womb were even highlighted in TIME magazine's recent 'Year in Pictures.'  Also, there is an increase in the number of female pro-life elected officials, who have a unique voice in making the case that abortion harms women both emotionally and physically."

In response to these trends, NARAL is increasing its state work in an effort to turn the political tide that helped ensure 53 anti-abortion measures were enacted last year.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, another abortion rights group, issued a report Wednesday with four separate maps as part of its "State of the States" report, showing that four different restrictions have gathered steam on the state level. They are outright abortion bansrestrictions on medication abortionrestrictions on insurance coverage for abortion, and targeted regulation of abortion providers. (A medication abortion is a non-surgical procedure in which drugs are used to induce the abortion.)

Here are the four maps that show which states adopted those restrictions in 2013 (Note: the language used in the maps is from the Center for Reproductive Rights):