NEWS IN CONTEXT
What Happened in State Reproductive Health Law in 2006?
February 13, 2007
In 2006, 29 states enacted a total of 62 laws addressing a wide range of issues related to reproductive health and rights, according to a Guttmacher Institute analysis, “Trends in the States 2006.” Twenty-six of the new laws concern abortion, including measures aimed at banning abortion, tightening requirements for minors seeking an abortion, mandating the content of the information provided to women seeking abortion and promoting alternatives to abortion. State legislatures also adopted 11 laws affecting contraception, including measures expanding eligibility for Medicaid-covered family planning, mandating contraceptive coverage in private insurance and promoting access to emergency contraception.
New state measures related to abortion included the following:
- South Dakota became the first state in 15 years to pass a clearly unconstitutional abortion ban, which would have made any abortion illegal in the state unless the woman’s life was endangered. Following the measure’s passage, a petition put it before South Dakota voters in November, who soundly defeated the ban, 56% to 44%.
- Louisiana enacted a law to ban abortion immediately if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That measure would prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion unless continuing the pregnancy could cause a severe risk to her physical health or result in her death.
- Two states, Oklahoma and Utah, added provisions requiring parental consent for a minor seeking an abortion to their existing requirement that a parent be notified. On the other side of the ledger, voters in California and Oregon defeated ballot initiatives to require parental notification before a minor may obtain an abortion.
- Six states took steps to promote “alternatives to abortion” in 2006. Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania all provided funding for programs providing alternatives, while a measure enacted in Georgia will create “choose life” license plates, and will earmark funds generated from the sale of the plates to groups that encourage women to consider adoption instead of abortion.
New state measures related to contraception included the following:
- The New Jersey legislature enacted a law mandating private-sector insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies. Three additional states expanded contraceptive coverage by administrative action. The Montana attorney general, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development all concluded that excluding contraceptives from health plans that cover other prescription drugs constitutes sex discrimination.
- Colorado, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania all moved to continue long-standing restrictions that prohibit state family planning funds from being used to provide counseling or referral for abortion. All of these states except Michigan (in which such action is unnecessary) also used their annual budget process to extend existing requirements that state-funded family planning providers be physically and financially separate from abortion services.
- Wisconsin moved to require that all sex education provided in the state teach that abstinence before marriage is the preferred behavior and emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; the law does not mandate that information about contraception be provided.
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