Live

Watch CBSN Live

As more states restrict abortions, fights rage on

The Texas state House on Wednesday, over the objections of enraged abortion-rights supporters, approved a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, reviving debate over a bill that inspired an epic filibuster and raucous demonstrations in Texas.

Texas, however, is far from the only state riling up abortion rights supporters with new abortion restrictions. According to research released this week by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, state legislatures this year have passed 43 measures that restrict access to abortion -- the second-highest number ever at the midyear mark.

Ten states have already banned abortion after 20 weeks, while one state -- North Dakota -- went so far as to ban abortions occurring after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Other states have adopted measures that effectively restrict abortion access, such as prolonging the waiting period for an abortion or requiring a woman to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion.

"At the end of the day, all of it is about a strategy to chip away and undermine access to the right" to an abortion, Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU told CBSNews.com. "Each restriction is kind of a brick, and you keep adding one brick year after year -- how long before the wall becomes so high women can't access abortion in those states?"

Legislation pertaining to abortion has, of course, been controversial for decades. The Republican Party has sacrificed some political success pursuing the issue -- losing the 2012 Senate election in Missouri, for instance, due to controversial remarks from GOP candidate Todd Akin. Still, it remains a critical cause for social conservatives, who still have a signficant role to play in the party.

While abortion restrictions are destined to go nowhere at the federal level, with the Democrats in charge of the Senate, the outlook has been very different at the state level. After the 2012 elections, Republicans control the full state legislature in more than half of the nation's states.

In response to some of these state efforts, groups like the ACLU have filed legal challenges. In Wisconsin on Monday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking a new abortion law after a complaint was filed by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other groups. Pro-abortion rights groups argue that, by restricting doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing abortions, the law unconstitutionally restricts access to abortions. The law also requires women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion, but that provision was not challenged.

Abortion rights supporters are also mobilizing grassroots support against the state laws and pending bills.

In Texas, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund on Tuesday kicked off a "Stand With Texas Women" bus tour in Austin. The tour goes through Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso. In an email to supporters soliciting donations for the bus tour, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his allies "have lit a fuse in Texas," prompting "the most inspiring fight for women's health that we've seen in years."

The group is also pushing back against abortion legislation in Ohio, signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich, after the state legislature included it in the state budget bill. The measure bars public hospitals from accepting transfer patients in need of emergency care from abortion clinics. The new law is a major restriction for abortion clinics, since an already-existing law requires abortion providers to have an agreement with a hospital allowing them to transfer patients in need of emergency care. The new law also includes ultrasound requirements and a provision attempting to keep funding from Planned Parenthood.

In response, Planned Parenthood on Wednesday is launching a weeklong television ad campaign on broadcast and cable in Ohio. The ad features a Planned Parenthood patient relating how she sought care at a Planned Parenthood health center after she was raped.

"Planned Parenthood provided the care and the support that I really needed," Audrey Imes says in the ad. "So when I heard that Gov. John Kasich had signed a budget that could defund Planned Parenthood... I felt very sad for Ohio women."

In North Carolina, Republicans are rethinking an abortion bill that was fast-tracked through the state Senate but nevertheless met fierce public resistance.

At a two-hour public committee hearing on Tuesday, CBS affiliate WRAL reports, North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos urged lawmakers to reconsider legislation that would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers -- a move supporters of abortion rights say would end up shuttering all but one of the state's clinics. The legislation would also restrict insurance coverage for abortions and require a doctor to be present whenever a woman undergoes a surgical abortion or takes an abortion-inducing drug.

Wos echoed concerns that North Carolina's Republican Gov. Pat McCrory expressed Monday, who told reporters, "There's a fine line between safety measures and restrictions, but those two lines should not be confused."

The state House's two-hour hearing indicated the legislature is listening to the bill's vocal opposition -- the House could have easily passed the bill without the hearing. However, after the state Senate quietly passed the measure last week by tacking it onto an unrelated bill, it spurred angry abortion-rights supporters to protest.

On Monday, 64 protesters were arrested at the North Carolina Legislative Building, including the president of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. While progressives in North Carolina have been holding regular protests against the GOP-led General Assembly, Monday's protest was focused on the abortion legislation.

View CBS News In