By the end of the second quarter of 2007, just over 1,000 measures relating to reproductive health and rights had been introduced in state legislatures across the nation. In all but nine states, legislatures had adjourned for the year, and no significant special sessions had been scheduled.
For the status of state law and policy on key reproductive health and rights issues, click here.
2007 Trends at Midyear
Reproductive health advocates have made significant progress this year in promoting access to emergency contraception for women who have been raped and comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in schools that includes discussion of contraception as well as abstinence. So far this year, measures to help a rape victim access emergency contraception have been enacted in five states. New laws enacted in Arkansas and Colorado require hospitals to give rape victims information about emergency contraception. Measures in Connecticut, Minnesota and Oregon go further by also requiring hospitals to dispense the medication if requested (see Monthly Update on emergency contraception). Including these new laws, four states now require the provision of information only and nine states require the provision of both information and the medication on request (see State Emergency Contraception Policies).
Meanwhile, Colorado and Washington enacted new laws this year that require discussion of both abstinence and contraception in school sex education classes, bringing to 15 the number of states with such policies (see Sex and STD/HIV Education). These new laws, along with a third enacted in Iowa, require that all information provided in sex education classes be medically accurate (see Monthly Update on sex education).
In addition to these successes, reproductive rights supporters also largely held the line in the fight against state abortion bans. Of the 27 bills that were introduced in 16 states this year, only two were enacted, in Mississippi and North Dakota. These bans, which would take effect only if Roe v. Wade is overturned (see Monthly Update on abortion bans), bring to four the number of states with such a policy (see Abortion Policy in the Absence of Roe). With no additional abortion ban proposals pending in any of the legislatures remaining in session, the issue appears dead for the legislative year.
Finally, the Supreme Court’s Gonzales v. Carhart decision in April to uphold the constitutionality of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act ignited an immediate flurry of judicial and legislative action, with federal courts re-examining previously enjoined bans in several states. Shortly after the decision was handed down, the injunction was lifted against Utah’s law, whose description of the banned procedure is basically in keeping with that in the federal law; like the federal law, the Utah measure also has no health exception. Courts are currently considering lifting injunctions against bans in Missouri and Virginia; the language of these laws is also similar to that of the federal ban. On the flip side, a federal judge upheld the injunction against Michigan’s “partial-birth” abortion ban on the grounds that it could have prohibited other common abortion procedures. Currently, 31 states have “partial-birth” abortion bans on the books, although laws are in effect in only five (see State Bans on “Partial-Birth” Abortion). The extent to which Gonzales v. Carhart will clear the way for judicial implementation in any of the remaining 26 states is yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, although the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzales v. Carhart came late in the state legislative season, it also had an immediate impact on legislators; within days, legislators in two states introduced three bills to ban “partial-birth” abortion, with definitions of the procedure largely in line with that of the federal ban but with more severe penalties. So far this year, legislators in nine states have introduced 14 bills (see Monthly Update on “partial-birth” abortion bans). Of these, the measure in Louisiana is the only one likely to be enacted this year; it has been approved by the legislature and is awaiting signature by Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D). In the remaining states, either the legislature has adjourned for the year or the provision has failed to progress beyond the committee level. Clearly, however, this is an area ripe for legislative action next year.
Production of State Quarterly Trends is made possible in part by support from The John Merck Fund.