States Work to Restrict Abortion

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Participants in an anti-abortion rally and march carry signs and banners as they arrive at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.
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Since the 2010 midterm elections when Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives, increasingly conservative state legislators have channeled their energies into restricting abortion. Under the leadership of then-governor Mike Pence, Indiana was among them, but Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Mississippi have all past laws to limit access to the service over the past 7 years.

The justification for abortion restriction often sounds like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's defense last month.

“And I personally believe that it's inappropriate to kill human beings that are innocent," Governor Bevin told reporters. "I just do and it's hard for me to imagine a scenario that somebody would tell me that killing innocent human beings is a good thing."

In January, Governor Bevin signed two bills into law in the state. One prohibited abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The other law requires a physician or technician to perform an ultrasound, describe and display the ultrasound images to the mother, and provide audio of the fetal heartbeat when possible all before a woman undergoes an abortion.

Kentucky is one state among many. In 2016 alone, Republican state legislatures enacted more than 60 abortion restrictions, introducing more than 500 measures in total, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Some of those laws have been challenged, but in many states, the restrictions stand.

Elizabeth Nash is Senior State Issues Manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that focuses on sexual and reproductive health.