The first months of the 2006 state legislative sessions indicate that last year’s focus on reproductive health issues not only is continuing but may even be intensifying. On abortion alone, 44 measures have already passed at least one legislative chamber. Of these, only two bills— in Washington and Hawaii—are designed to protect access to abortion services. The remaining bills are designed to restrict access through a variety of approaches.

So far this year, legislators in 10 states (AL, GA, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, OH, SD and TN) have introduced measures that would directly challenge Roe by banning virtually all abortions. In March, South Dakota enacted a measure (slated to go into effect in July) that would permit abortion only when the woman’s life is endangered. Although no legal challenge has been filed to date to block the law’s enforcement, a petition is circulating to put the issue before the voters in November. A similar measure passed both houses of the Mississippi legislature and died in a conference committee. (See Abortion Policy in the Absence of Roe.)

At the same time, legislators in other states are proposing legislation that would prohibit state interference with a woman’s right to choose abortion prior to viability or at anytime when the abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman. Measures along these lines have been introduced in four states (HI, MA, MN and NY). Of these only the Hawaii bill has seen further action; that measure was approved by the House and is pending before the full Senate.

As they did last year, legislators are again paying serious attention to the sexual health and rights of minors. So far this year, 171 measures relating to minors have been introduced in 40 states; of these 115 would restrict minors’ rights.

In March, Utah enacted a law that adds a requirement for parental consent for a minor seeking an abortion to its existing parental notice requirement. When the new Utah law goes into effect in May, the number of states with some sort of requirement for parental involvement will total 34, with 13 requiring notice and 22 requiring consent. (See Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions.)

Measures to restrict minor’s access to contraceptives have been seriously considered in both Arizona and New Hampshire. In Arizona, a measure to require that providers obtain parental consent before writing any prescription for a minor, including one for contraceptives, was approved by a legislative committee and is now being considered by the full House. A measure that would have specifically required parental consent for emergency contraception was defeated in New Hampshire after having been approved at the committee level.

Click on the links below for more information. Monthly updates on sexual and reproductive health and rights developments in the states

Current status of state policies

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