Although state legislatures focused on responding to the current economic crisis, numerous bills on reproductive health have also been the subject of debate and action. In the first half of 2009, 875 measures related to reproductive health were introduced in the 50 states and DC, and a total of 33 laws were enacted in 27 states. Three significant trends have emerged this year:
Sex education continues to garner significant attention at the state level, with 80 bills introduced in 28 states. So far this year, Hawaii, North Carolina and Oregon enacted legislation to promote comprehensive sex education, bringing to 17 the number of states that require information about contraception to be included in their sex education programs.
Just about every aspect of state budgets has come under intense scrutiny this year. In California, Iowa and Minnesota reproductive health advocates appear to have been able to deflect proposed spending reductions, while in Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana and Washington programs are likely to be cut substantially.
Abortion opponents have used two distinct strategies to establish fetal personhood this year. The first is patterned after a ballot initiative defeated in Colorado in November 2008 that would have amended the state constitution to confer personhood on a fetus at the moment of conception, setting the stage to ban abortion and even most contraception. Legislators introduced similar measures in six states this year; although none was enacted, bills were approved by one legislative chamber in Montana and North Dakota. The second approach builds on a 2005 South Dakota law that requires a provider to inform a woman, as part of state-mandated abortion counseling, that the procedure “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Legislators in four states introduced similar measures this year, and one new law was enacted in North Dakota.
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