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Alabama joins flood of states restricting abortion. What's behind this?

The Alabama and Virginia legislatures just passed new measures, following stricter actions in North Dakota and Arkansas. To understand this latest wave, look to the tea party.

By Staff writer / April 4, 2013

Abortion opponents pray as they gather on the steps of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., last month. Hundreds gathered to hear speakers, including Gov. Robert Bentley, during the rally.

Dave Martin/AP

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Washington

Alabama has joined North Dakota and Arkansas in taking steps to enact tough new restrictions on abortion.

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The Alabama bill, passed by the state Legislature late Tuesday, includes a requirement that an abortion provider have admitting rights at a local hospital – a rule that may sound minor, but could prove challenging to achieve in a state with strong opposition to abortion. Supporters say it is aimed at protecting women’s health, while opponents say it is medically unnecessary and aimed at denying women access to abortion.

Last week, North Dakota became the most restrictive state in the country toward abortion when the governor signed a bill banning abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected – as early as six weeks. North Dakota also requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges, as do Mississippi and Tennessee. Early in March, Arkansas passed a fetal-heartbeat law that would ban abortion as early as 12 weeks.

Also taking action on abortion, but along a different track, is Virginia. On Tuesday, the legislature approved a measure proposed by Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) that would forbid insurers in federally managed "exchanges" from covering abortion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

What’s behind this flood of restrictions? And why now?

The immediate answer is that, following the November elections, states across the country have just seated their new legislatures – and for some members, taking action against abortion rights is a top priority. In Virginia, Governor McDonnell is moving fast on abortion as the clock winds down toward the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment for health insurance under the ACA.

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