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Those who follow state politics in the United States may have noticed a spattering of news this year on efforts to pass bills that curb access to abortion. Laws cutting funding to clinics and requiring women seeking abortions to get sonograms have made their rounds through state legislatures across the country. The folks over at the Guttmacher Institute, a left-leaning non-profit that looks into sexual and reproductive health, have kept a tally of the number of abortion restrictions provisions passed by states over the past several years and found that in the first half of 2011 alone 19 states have passed 80 restrictions--the highest total ever, more than doubling the previous record of 34 set in 2005. 

So what's behind the surge? According to the Guttmasher Institute's Elizabeth Nash, the conservative legislators and governors voted into office last November in many states, coupled with the high profile abortion services received in the national healthcare debate in 2010, gave conservative policymakers the ideal moment to push for the restrictions. "It just exploded. There was this momentum in place already and the legislators just picked up and ran with it," Nash said. For example, five states--Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma--took a cue from Nebraska this year and passed legislation modeled after a 2010 law in the state that banned abortions after 20 weeks. Meteor Blades over at the Daily Kos says that the economic downturn may be giving lawmakers an added defense for the bills, writing that "cutting budgets for family planning was an expected consequence of the fiscal crises they face."

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