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 "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."