By the beginning of October, nearly all of the state legislatures have adjourned for 2005 (only seven remain in session), and in their wake, they leave numerous new laws affecting access to and availability of reproductive health services. To date, a total of 80 laws have been enacted, compared with 28 for all of 2005.
So far this year, 43 measures that restrict access to reproductive health care have been enacted (up from 16 last year), including measures that
- criminalize abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned (South Dakota);
- require women to receive counseling at least 24 hours before having an abortion (Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota);
- provide women seeking an abortion with scientifically unsupported information on fetal pain (Arkansas, Georgia and Minnesota);
- require minors seeking an abortion to obtain parental consent (Arkansas, Idaho and Texas) or give parental notice (Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Dakota);
- penalize those assisting a minor in crossing state lines for an abortion (Missouri);
- fund organizations that provide “alternatives to abortion” counseling and services for pregnant women (Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas); and
- exclude agencies that provide abortion-related services from participating in state family planning programs (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas).
On the other hand, 20 measures designed to increase access to reproductive health care have been approved this year (compared with 3 last year), including measures that
- permit pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives without a prescription (Massachusetts and New Hampshire);
- provide sexual assault victims with services related to emergency contraception (Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas);
- expand Medicaid eligibility for family planning (Connecticut, Indiana and Texas);
- protect access to contraceptives by limiting pharmacist refusals (California);
- require coverage of contraception within insurance plans (Arkansas and West Virginia); and
- protect access to abortion clinics (Montana).
In addition, other measures were enacted that would
- consider a fetus a person under homicide statutes (Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Oklahoma and West Virginia);
- provide enhanced penalties for killing a pregnant woman (Maine); and
- allow stem cell research (Connecticut, Indiana and Massachusetts).
Parental involvement in minors’ abortions has also been a hot issue this year in the states. To date, eight states—Arkansas, Idaho, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas—have passed or amended parental involvement laws this year. Missouri’s new law, which is blocked pending the resolution of a court case, would prohibit anyone from helping a minor obtain an out-of-state abortion. In addition, after seven years in legal limbo, Ohio’s parental consent law, although still being challenged, was allowed to go into effect and replace the existing parental notification law.
The question of parental involvement is likely to remain in the news. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of New Hampshire’s enjoined parental notification law during this year’s term. And the question of whether a parent must be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor is up for vote in California’s upcoming special election (see Teenagers’ Access to Confidential Reproductive Health Services).
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