Why States Rushed to Protect Abortion in 2019
Conservatives enacted aggressive abortion restrictions in 2019, but a record number of states fought back
A woman’s right to choose was under siege in 2019. Emboldened by the new conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-abortion advocates entered a new phase of their fight, enacting aggressive measures in at least 17 states that ranged from banning and criminalizing abortion outright to forcing doctors to offer false information about “reversing” the procedure.
But these attacks also led to a growing number of abortion rights advocates and lawmakers to successfully push for measures protecting access to abortion care at the state level.
The number of measures protecting or expanding abortion care enacted went from 5 in 2018 to 36 in 2019, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Overall, more protections were enacted this year alone than in the entire preceding decade, the organization said.
“We had a record of nine states that advanced legislation that protects abortion rights, expands abortion access, or does both. That’s more states doing that in a single year than ever in our nation’s history,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), told GEN.
The push to codify abortion rights at the state level has a lot to do with advocates’ fears that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, won’t survive for much longer. After all, anti-abortion lawmakers have made it pretty clear that the goal of the majority of the measures they advanced this year is to set up a legal challenge that can eventually overturn Roe. Now abortion-friendly states are taking matters into their own hands to make sure the procedure remains legal and accessible in a post-Roe world.
The flurry of abortion rights legislating was made possible by a recent leftward shift in state governments, particularly after the Democratic wins of the 2018 midterm election. At the beginning of the decade, conservatives dominated a majority of state legislatures and governorships; they have since lost ground. “We didn’t see the pendulum swing back for many years, but we’re starting to see that now. [For…