NEWS IN CONTEXT
1,207 State Reproductive Health Bills Introduced by Mid-2006
July 21, 2006
By the beginning of July, state legislators had introduced 1,207 bills on topics related to reproductive health, and 81 new laws had been enacted in 34 states. Eleven states enacted 14 measures supportive of sexual and reproductive health and rights, while 19 states enacted 37 measures antithetical to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
In particular, state legislatures continue to be a testing ground for new abortion policies. This year, measures to either ban or protect the right to abortion have generated serious attention. Legislation to ban abortion without waiting for Roe v. Wade to be overturned has been proposed in 12 states (AL, GA, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, OH, RI, SC, SD, TN), while measures to prohibit the procedure in the event that Roe is overturned have been introduced in five states (KY, LA, MO, OK, WV). At the other end of the spectrum, legislators in five states (HI, MA, MN, NY, RI) have introduced measures to preemptively protect access to abortion in the event Roe is overturned.
So far this year, two states have enacted measures designed to prohibit abortion. In March, the South Dakota legislature adopted a measure to prohibit abortion except when necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman. However, opponents gathered enough signatures to defer implementation pending a statewide referendum in November. No other state currently has a similar law in place. In June, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) signed legislation that would ban abortion in the event that either Roe is overturned or the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to restrict abortion. Three other states (IL, KY, SD) have laws expressing their intent to ban abortion if Roe is reversed.
In a move aimed at protecting access to abortion, a new law in Hawaii prohibits the state from interfering with a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the life and health of the woman. Since 1990, six other states have adopted similar legal protections for women seeking an abortion.
Though overshadowed by the furor caused by state abortion bans, abortion counseling requirements have also received significant attention from legislators. While no additional states instituted required counseling, legislators in Michigan and Oklahoma broadened the scope of their counseling requirements by mandating that a physician discuss opportunities to view ultrasound images of the fetus with women prior to abortion. Measures to broaden existing counseling requirements passed at least one house of the legislature in seven other states (AZ, GA, IN, KY, LA, MN, VT), although all have now died for the year.
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