One consequence of the Republican victories in the recent midterm election may be renewed momentum for anti-abortion legislation on the state level. Politico reports on the prospects for abortion restrictions in several states that saw GOP victories of one kind or another:
One state in the spotlight: Tennessee. Voters in November approved a ballot initiative that says the state’s constitution does not protect abortion rights. That cleared the way for state lawmakers to pass new abortion restrictions for the first time in nearly 15 years. Republican state Rep. Rick Womick already has filed bills requiring mandatory ultrasounds and a three-day waiting period for an abortion. […]Another eight states — Ohio, Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin — are considered top targets by abortion opponents. Arkansas has several laws on the books but, in addition to the telemedicine bill, may also pursue legislation that would keep Medicaid dollars from any organization that provides abortions.
These political victories are impressive, but pro-life politicians and advocacy groups have more than that to celebrate: the abortion rate is also coming down year on year. According to a new CDC report (h/t Andrew Quinn), from 2002 to 2011 “the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 13%, 14%, and 12%, respectively.” All three of those metrics recorded even further drops in 2011 itself, reaching their lowest point in all the years studied by the CDC for this report. Many of the laws the Politico piece lists were passed during or after 2011, so the downward trend predates them. But there was a prior wave of abortion restrictions before the one in 2011: Many states began to enforce parental involvement and pass informed consent laws in the late 1990s, with abortion rates dropping 18.4 percent from 1990 to 1999.Experts and partisans will continue to debate the precise connection between the laws in question and the decreasing rates. Some studies found that abortion declines do not appear to be concentrated in the states with the toughest laws, but hold nationally, while other studies suggest those laws are effective. This much, however, is indisputable: since the 1990s restrictions have increased and abortion rates have gone down. There is a third trend which pro-lifers will find heartening—one that is certainly related to the other two even if the exact connection is also murky. A plurality of the American public is supportive of certain kinds of abortion restrictions, especially on late-term abortions. Though a total ban on abortion or similar measures are outside the current political consensus, at the moment there’s wind in the pro-life sails.