NEWS IN CONTEXT
State Legislative Trends: Hostility to Abortion Rights Increases
April 12, 2011
Through March 31, legislators introduced 916 measures related to reproductive health and rights in the 49 state legislatures that had convened their regular session. (Louisiana’s legislature will not convene until late April.) Click here for a detailed analysis.
By the end of March, seven states had enacted 15 new laws on these issues, including provisions that:
- expand the pre-abortion waiting period requirement in South Dakota to make it the most onerous in the country, by extending the time from 24 hours to 72 hours and requiring women to visit a crisis pregnancy center in the interim;
- expand the abortion counseling requirement in South Dakota to mandate that counseling be provided in-person by the physician who will perform the abortion and that counseling include information published after 1972 on all the risk factors related to abortion complications, even if the data are scientifically flawed;
- require the health departments in Utah and Virginia to develop new regulations governing abortion clinics;
- revise the Utah abortion refusal clause to allow any hospital employee to refuse to “participate in any way” in an abortion;
- limit abortion coverage in all private health plans in Utah, including plans that will be offered in the state’s health exchange; and
- revise the Mississippi sex education law to require all school districts to provide abstinence-only sex education, while permitting discussion of contraception only with prior approval from the state.
In addition to these laws, more than 120 other bills have been approved by at least one chamber of the legislature, and some interesting trends are emerging. As a whole, the proposals introduced this year are more hostile to abortion rights than in the past: Fifty-six percent of the bills introduced so far this year seek to restrict abortion access, compared with 38% in 2010. Three topics—insurance coverage of abortion, restriction of abortion after a specific point in gestation and ultrasound requirements—are topping the agenda in several states.
At the same time, legislators are proposing little in the way of proactive initiatives aimed at expanding access to reproductive health-related services. This stands in sharp contrast to recent years, when a range of initiatives to promote comprehensive sex education, permit expedited STI treatment for patients’ partners and ensure insurance coverage of contraception were adopted. For the moment, at least, supporters of reproductive health and rights are almost uniformly playing defense at the state level.
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