State Legislative Trends in 2009

The time is now. Will you stand up for reproductive health and rights?

First published online:

Even as state legislatures grappled with the economic downturn, more than 900 measures related to reproductive health and rights were introduced in 2009. By year’s end, 77 new laws had been enacted in 34 states and the District of Columbia—more than double the 33 laws enacted in 20 states in 2008. While new laws related to abortion are overwhelmingly restrictive, states did take significant steps to promote reproductive health by mandating that sex education be comprehensive as well as medically accurate, expanding access to emergency contraception and allowing health care providers to prescribe STI treatment for a patient’s partner. Click here for a longer summary of developments in the states in 2009.

Over the course of the year, 18 states enacted 34 laws related to abortion. Arizona adopted a massive omnibus measure that essentially revamps abortion policy in the state. The new law requires in-person counseling and a waiting period prior to an abortion, tightens restrictions on minors seeking an abortion and expands the right to refuse to participate in abortion-related services; most of the provisions are not in effect due to ongoing litigation. Among other abortion-related measures, laws were enacted in various states to mandate counseling and waiting periods before an abortion, to require the provision of ultrasound for an abortion and to ban later-term abortions.

Ten states, meanwhile, enacted laws expanding access to contraceptives or STI prevention and treatment. Six states expanded access to STI services, most often by allowing expedited treatment for a patient’s partner. Five states enacted measures specifically designed to expand or protect access to contraceptives. One of these, Colorado, defined contraception as preventing a pregnancy from occurring, in an explicit move to protect contraceptive services from state restrictions on abortion. Two additional states adopted measures to expand access to emergency contraception for women who have been sexually assaulted, and two others expanded insurance coverage for contraceptive services.

Four states enacted new laws aimed at promoting comprehensive sex education. Two enacted measures to ensure that the education provided is medically accurate and includes a discussion of contraception; a third maintained its mandate that abstinence be discussed, but removed a requirement that it be characterized as the "safest and most responsible sexual behavior." A fourth state adopted a measure permitting state agencies to seek federal funding only for comprehensive sex education programs.

Meanwhile, Arizona and Louisiana moved to expand their existing refusal provisions in 2009. Significantly, and unlike most refusal clauses, the new Louisiana law institutes important patient protections that require health care facilities to ensure that patients can obtain services in a timely manner, even if a provider refuses to perform the service.

For summaries of major state legislative actions in 2009, click here.

For a table showing legislation enacted in 2009, click here.

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