Rewinding Roe v. Wade: Understanding the Accelerated Adoption of State-Level Restrictive Abortion Legislation, 2008–2014

Keith Gunnar Bentele, Rebecca Sager, Amanda Aykanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Since 2008 the volume of state-level legislation regulating abortion has dramatically increased, with nearly 300 restrictive laws passing in 33 states. While the character of these laws is varied, many have the potential to significantly limit access to abortion for some women. Using a multilevel modeling approach, we investigate a wide variety of state-level factors associated with these developments. We find that a larger number of antiabortion policies have passed in states under full Republican control, with fewer female Democratic legislators, and states with a stronger presence by the conservative Evangelical movement within state governments. We also examine more substantive restrictions on clinics, abortion seekers, and funding in a separate analysis, and symbolic restrictions and those intended to discourage women seeking abortions in another. Most of the variation in both types of restrictions is explained by GOP control and conservative Evangelical movement influence. One noteworthy difference, however, is that the presence of more female Democratic legislators is associated with reductions in the passage of the more symbolic types of restrictions, but not more substantial and consequential restrictions. Following the expectations of the political mediation model, we test whether the impacts of multiple factors are contingent upon the presence of full GOP control of state governments. We find that GOP legislative majorities passed substantially more antiabortion legislation in the context of states with majorities of pro-life legislators, more female Republican legislators, more pro-life nonprofits per capita, and stronger conservative Evangelical movement influence in state governments. Overall, we view these policy developments as a product of the convergence of decades of investment by the conservative Evangelical antiabortion movement into GOP institutions with the political opportunities provided by unusually high levels of state-level Republican party control following the 2010 elections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-517
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Women, Politics and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Abortion restrictions
  • Evangelical movement
  • antiabortion movement
  • multilevel modeling
  • political mediation
  • state legislation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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