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January 23, 2013

40 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents march on

(Continued)

The group also wants to strengthen a state law dictating what information must be provided to abortion patients, banning abortions because of the fetus’ gender and allowing wrongful-death lawsuits when a fetus dies because of an accident.

Comparable proposals are gaining ground elsewhere, too. Republican lawmakers in North Dakota are pursuing a measure to ban “sex selection” abortions. Alabama’s GOP legislative majorities are looking to impose new health and safety regulations for abortion providers. And Republicans in Arkansas want to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

“I think more of America is becoming more pro-life,” said Dr. Melissa Colbern, who started a crisis pregnancy center in Topeka near the state Capitol last year. “I think maybe the culture is changing.”

But Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro Choice America, said most citizens are not demanding their elected officials push for new abortion restrictions.

“A lot of these anti-choice politicians don’t run on the issue,” Keenan said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. “They run on jobs, or they run on the economy. And then they show up in these state legislatures, and they begin to advance very anti-choice legislation.”

In the four decades since Roe v. Wade, a series of court decisions have narrowed its scope. With each decision, lawmakers in multiple states have followed up by making abortions more difficult to obtain or imposing restrictions on providers.

According to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights think tank, 135 laws aimed in some way at restricting access to abortion were enacted in 30 states — most of them with Republican-controlled legislatures — in 2011 and 2012. More such measures already have been proposed in several states this year.

In Wyoming, for example, a pending bill would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is audible. A similar “heartbeat” bill is pending in Mississippi, and one was debated but later sidetracked in Ohio last year.

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