In the midst of the push, Republican legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and several other swing states enacted restrictions, but not the tougher ones. Republican majorities in Florida did not add new restrictions and leaders don't expect to. In Virginia, a key anti-abortion measure didn't pass. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in North Carolina is balking at more action.
GOP officials there object to the idea of legislating abortion repeatedly and to proposals they consider extreme.
"We just passed the biggest abortion bill in Wisconsin in 15 years," said Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman, among the chamber's leading anti-abortion crusaders. "But to ask our members to do that again, they might not have the stomach for that."
In these states, GOP leaders say they are worried about alienating women and young people, who disproportionately favor abortion rights. These groups voted in lesser numbers than usual for GOP candidates last year. Democratic President Barack Obama won the women's vote by 11 percentage points.
Nationally, most voters approve of restrictions on abortion but 54 percent think it should be legal in most or all cases, according to a poll conducted in July by the Pew Center for People and the Press. The support for abortion rights was 10 percentage points higher in the Great Lakes and South Atlantic regions than in the South.
In Michigan, "There's just not a whole lot of legislative things left do" on abortion, said GOP Senate President Randy Richardville. "We lean conservative, but we're not crazies."
Michigan's Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger blocked one tough abortion bill this year and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed another last year, which opponents are now trying to circumvent with a ballot initiative.
But abortion rights supporters say that even if the GOP's anti-abortion push loses momentum, the measures already passed in Republican states will have a major impact on women seeking abortions.
"Even if this wave of restrictions stops, it's not like access will be restored," said Elizabeth Nash, the state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.