Social issues, including those related to reproductive health and rights, were not the top priority in 2008 for state legislators. Instead, they mostly spent the year grappling with budget crises and infrastructure issues even as they sought to shorten their sessions so they could hit the campaign trail in advance of the November elections. Nevertheless, 1,001 measures relating to reproductive health and rights were introduced over the course of the year, and 33 new laws were enacted in 20 states. Click here for a longer summary of developments in the states in 2008 .
Seventeen new abortion laws were enacted in 10 states on topics ranging from ultrasound requirements, coerced abortion, public funding of abortion, alternatives to abortion funding, medication abortion, provider refusal to physician liability. While none of the new abortion-related laws expand access to services, a few states took significant steps to promote reproductive health. These steps included requiring hospitals to provide information on emergency contraception to women who have been sexually assaulted, laying the groundwork for expanding Medicaid family planning coverage and mandating insurance coverage of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
Meanwhile, voters in three states cast ballots on abortion-related ballot initiatives in November, all of which failed. The initiatives defeated in Colorado and South Dakota would have banned abortion, the former by establishing personhood at conception and the latter by banning abortion except in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or when the woman’s physical health is extremely endangered. The measure defeated in California would have required notification of a parent before a minor obtains an abortion; this was the third time in four years that a parental notification proposal was rejected by voters.
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