Elizabeth Nash is a Public Policy Associate in the Guttmacher Institute's Washington DC office. She coordinates the efforts of the state team, which analyzes legislative, regulatory and judicial actions on reproductive health issues and develops Guttmacher's monthly State Policies in Brief series and update of state policy developments. Ms. Nash joined the Institute in 1999.
While state legislators pushed through 20-week abortion bans and restrictions against fetal-tissue research in some states, there was progress on measures related to contraceptive access in places such as California, Illinois, and Vermont.
So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.
The year will be remembered not only because 17 states enacted a total of 57 new abortion restrictions, but also because the politics of abortion ensnared family planning programs, providers, and life-saving fetal tissue research.
In the first six months of 2013, states enacted more than 100 provisions related to reproductive health and rights, including 43 restrictions on access to abortion—the second-highest number of abortion access restrictions ever at the midyear mark, and as many as were enacted in all of 2012.
Reproductive health and rights were once again the subject of extensive debate in state capitols in 2012. Over the course of the year, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. One-third of these new provisions, 43 in 19 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services.
In the first half of 2012, states enacted 95 new provisions related to reproductive health and rights. As was the case in 2011, issues related to abortion, family planning funding and sex education once again were significant flashpoints in many legislatures .
It's only been about a month since the midterm election that brought significant prochoice victories, including the defeat of South Dakota's draconian abortion ban and the rejection of ballot initiatives in California and Oregon that would have required parental notification before a minor could obtain an abortion. And yet, it is already time to go back to work as antiabortion advocates are gearing up once again to continue restricting access to abortion services.
Stephanie Simon reported in the LA Times shortly after the election that one of the antichoice movement's primary goals will be to "expand or rewrite ‘informed consent' laws" - a favorite and perennial tactic. According to a recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, written counseling materials often contain medically inaccurate, out-of-date or biased information - violating a core tenet of the principles of informed consent.
Informed consent - the concept that individuals have a right to receive relevant, accurate and unbiased information prior to receiving medical care so they can make sound decisions regarding treatment - is a bedrock principle of medical ethics. Moreover, the obligation to provide such information is mandated by statute or case law in all 50 states.
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