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By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - While abortion rights advocates look ahead to the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump with trepidation, obstacles to women seeking to end unwanted pregnancies already are gathering intensity, research showed on Thursday.
Fifty new abortion restrictions were passed last year in 18 of the 50 U.S. states, where legislators introduced more than 400 measures aimed at limiting abortion access, according to The Century Foundation, a U.S.-based public policy research group.
The study found that 32 states tried to ban all or some abortions.
Trump, who is to be sworn into office on Friday, opposes abortion and says he wants the Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion overturned. He has promised to appoint an anti-abortion justice to the nation's highest court.
He also wants to pull government funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of women's health care, with more than 650 clinics.
Trump's positions are supported by many fellow members of the Republican Party, which controls both houses of Congress.
"Looking ahead to the next administration, it is imperative to understand just how limited access to reproductive care already is for many American women, especially low-income women," said the foundation in its reproductive health care report.
The foundation, which describes itself as a progressive, nonpartisan think tank, called Trump's inauguration "the latest harrowing attack on Americans' reproductive rights."
Abortion persists in being a contentious issue in the United States, where it has been legal nationwide since 1973.
More than two-thirds of Americans oppose overturning Roe v Wade, and a majority say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the Pew Research Center said this month.
Efforts to restrict abortion have been gaining momentum, the foundation report said. The 334 restrictions passed by states in the past five years account for a third of all restrictions enacted since 1973.
Facilities providing abortions numbered about 1,700 in 2011, down from 2,900 three decades earlier, it said.
More than a third of U.S. women of reproductive age now live in counties with no abortion clinic. In counties with abortion services, Planned Parenthood clinics are the leading providers, according to the findings.
In the midwestern state of Missouri, which has strict abortion regulations, one licensed abortion provider remains open.
Half of all women nationwide getting abortions have incomes below the federal poverty level, and roughly half paid out of their own pocket.
Along with the Hyde Amendment that bans use of federal funds to pay for abortions, 25 states ban coverage of abortions in private health insurance plans.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)