Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
 

Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights:
Trends in the First Quarter of 2007

 

By the end of the first quarter of 2007, just over 1,000 measures relating to reproductive health and rights had been introduced in state legislatures across the nation. Measures were introduced in every state but Nevada. Although most legislatures remain in session, eight have completed their work and adjourned for the year. 

For summaries of major state legislative actions so far this year, click here.

For a table showing legislation enacted in 2007, click here.

For the status of state law and policy on key reproductive health and rights issues, click here.

 

Abortion Bans

With the legislative year in full swing in most states, some interesting trends are emerging. Even before the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act”—widely regarded as demonstrating the fragility of the basic abortion right guaranteed in Roe v. Wade—legislators in several states had taken at least preliminary steps toward enacting state legislation aimed either at banning abortion or, alternatively, protecting abortion rights. By the end of the first quarter, 24 abortion ban bills had been introduced in 16 states; Mississippi, however, was the only state to enact a law, a measure in that would ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned (see Monthly Update section on abortion bans). Comparable legislation was defeated in Utah, however, as were immediate abortion bans—blatantly unconstitutional measures aimed at forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe—in Mississippi and South Dakota. Abortion bans remain under active consideration in nine additional states, although only one of these, a North Dakota bill, has been approved by at least one legislative chamber. Meanwhile, legislators in Rhode Island have introduced two measures aimed at protecting a woman’s right to abortion, which are similar to laws in place in seven other states (see Abortion Policy in the Absence of Roe).

Whether interest in legislation to either ban abortion or to protect abortion rights intensifies in the wake of the Court’s ruling on the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act remains to be seen. More likely, given that the Court upheld that law even though it did not contain a health exception, its action will prompt attempts by antiabortion state lawmakers to enact (or reenact) a variety of state restrictions on abortion access that also do not have health exceptions. Also likely are new antiabortion “informed consent” proposals designed to give women more, and more detailed, information about fetal development and the abortion procedure they are about to undergo.

 

Parental Involvement in Minors' Abortions

So far this year, however, the major abortion-related issue to receive extensive attention at the state level is that of minors’ access. By the end of the first quarter, legislators in 23 states had introduced 50 bills related to parental notice or consent (see Monthly Update section on Minors’ Abortion). One new parental consent law has been enacted, in Idaho. With passage of this law, which replaces an existing state law that has not been in effect because of a court order, 22 states now require parental consent, 11 require parental notice, and two require both notice and consent before a minor may obtain an abortion (see Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions). At the moment, all of these laws have a health exception.

Another measure that has received much attention seeks to safeguard minors’ access by blocking implementation of New Hampshire’s long-enjoined parental notice requirement. Last year, in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the lower court to issue a final ruling on the law, which could clear the way for it to be implemented. In an attempt to forestall that possibility, prochoice legislators in the state, supported by New Hampshire’s new governor, have moved to repeal the underlying law; the repeal bill was approved by the House in March.

 

School Entry Requirements for HPV Vaccination

Beyond the abortion issue, the issue of HPV vaccination for middle school students has been a major concern among legislators this year (see Achieving Universal Vaccination Against Cervical Cancer in the United States: The Need and the Means). By the end of the first quarter, 42 bills had been introduced in 26 states and Washington, DC (see Monthly Update section on HPV) that would include HPV on the list of vaccines necessary for school attendance. As resistance to such a mandate has grown around the country, the only policy change approved by the end of the first quarter came through an executive order issued by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). Following the governor’s action, momentum has mounted to overturn that decision, with a measure to do that racing through the legislature with seemingly veto-proof support and a separate lawsuit seeking to block the rule filed by parents of elementary school students in the state. In early April, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) vetoed an HPV mandate, while Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) signed what may well be the nation’s first HPV mandate to actually go into effect.

 

Production of State Quarterly Trends is made possible in part by support from The John Merck Fund.