Friday, April 22, 2011

States Gone Wild!

No, this is not a new DVD. Instead of being titillating, I would say it’s pretty damn infuriating. Riding the coattails of their GOP/Tea leaders in Congress, many state lawmakers have been spending their time pushing through anti-women’s health legislation. Because, really, that’s the answer to unemployment, poverty and rising healthcare costs. Duh!

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, last November’s election gave us 8 more anti-choice governors, taking the final count from 21 to 29. The number of states with straight-up anti-choice governments (meaning both legislative houses and the governor are unfriendly) increased from 10 to 15.

Despite the fact that a majority of Americans support family planning services – including a woman’s right to choose – our state leadership is not reflecting this. Trying to find an organized, updated list or map of the nonsense cropping up across the nation is rather difficult; probably because things are happening Ludicrous Speed.

So, here are the fruits of my research (many thanks to National Women’s Partnership for their Daily Women’s Health Policy Reports). And, just like Apple products, by the time y’all read this, it will probably be outdated. After perusing this laundry list of legislation, I’m sure most of us would prefer to see a full-length feature of state legislators participating in inebriated spring break behavior…

The Unsexy 17:

1. Arizona: Passed HB 2442, making it a felony for health professionals to provide abortion care if they suspect a woman is seeking the procedure because of the race or gender of the fetus. It would not penalize the woman; only the physician. This is the first law of its kind in the U.S., and opponents maintain that there is no such evidence of racial/gendered abortions occurring in Arizona.

Gov. Jan Brewer also signed HB 2416/SB 1246, requiring every woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat, if audible.

2. Florida: Eighteen (yes, 18) anti-choice bills have been filed in the state legislature. Measures range from providing funds for crisis pregnancy centers to a complete abortion ban in the state – even in cases of rape and incest.

3. Idaho: Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (yes, “Butch”) signed into law SB 1148, making it a felony for a physician to provide abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy (except when the woman's life is in danger) based on the theory of fetal pain.

4. Indiana: Senate Health Committee approved SB 328 based on the supporters' claim that a fetus might feel pain at or before 20 weeks.

5. Iowa: House approved HF 657, banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based again on fetal pain. The bill now moves to the Senate.

6. Kansas: Not one, not two, but three bills surfaced in the Sunflower State. First, Gov. Sam Brownbeck (R) signed two bills into law: HB 2218, prohibiting abortions after 21 weeks of pregnancy with the exception of life endangerment. It also removes the current law’s exception for mental and emotional reasons. The second bill is HB 2035, requiring minors to obtain consent from both parents before receiving abortion services.

The third anti-abortion bill on deck is the House substitute for SB 36, which would require abortion clinics to comply with a series of medical standards and practices. In addition, the bill states that a “female observer” must be present during any abortion services or pelvic exams provided by a male doctor at an abortion facility; doctors providing abortion services must obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics; hospitals or surgical centers must register as abortion clinics if they provide more than five first-trimester abortions in a month; and any deaths linked to abortion complications must be reported to the state within one business day; reports of any injuries must be filed within 10 days. Democratic Rep. Judith Loganbill, questioned why these standards are being mandated for abortion clinics, but not for other surgical outpatient facilities. Another highly disputed provision of the bill requires a woman be in the presence of a physician when taking mifepristone, the medication used to induce abortion.

7. Louisiana: State Rep. John LaBruzzo (R) recently filed HB 587 that would prohibit "all abortions at any and all stages of the unborn child's development" and allow charges of "feticide" against abortion providers as well as women. LaBruzzo said he introduced the legislation at the urging of a conservative religious group (which he left unnamed) and the aim of the bill is to prompt a court case to challenge Roe v. Wade.

8. Minnesota: Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved SF 711, which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks gestation with no exceptions for rape, incest or mental health. The bill would allow abortion beyond 20 weeks to save a woman's life or to prevent irreversible physical harm to the woman.

The second measure approved is SF 264, barring state-funded health programs from funding abortion services.

A third Senate bill SF 1017, would require parental consent before minors can obtain care related to contraceptives, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and drug or alcohol abuse, unless the health condition is life-threatening. Fortunately, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton (D) supports abortion rights, is not likely to sign any of these.

9. Mississippi: On June 6, the Mississippi Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a pre-emptive court challenge against Measure 26, a ballot question that would define a person as a “human being from the moment of fertilization.”

10. Missouri: House approved HB 213, a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with an exception for the life of the mother. It would require providers to determine if the fetus could survive outside the womb before performing a termination. The bill now moves to the Senate.

11. Ohio: House Health and Aging Committee approved HB 125, a bill that would require physicians to deny women abortion procedures if a heartbeat can be detected from an ultrasound. Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder (R) has said he wants to consult with experts before moving the bill to the full House.

12. Oklahoma: Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 1888, making it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the theory of fetal pain. The bill includes an exception for life/“major bodily function” endangerment, but does not include any exceptions for fetal abnormalities.

She also signed SB 547, a bill that prohibits health insurance plans sold in state exchanges from covering abortion services

13. Pennsylvania: The state House Health Committee voted 19-4 to pass a bill that would require clinics providing abortion services to meet the same safety standards as outpatient surgery centers. The American Civil Liberties Union said PA law already contains guidelines for abortion clinics regarding equipment, staff, emergency transfers to hospitals, counseling and reporting. The bill would require costly changes at the clinics, which could force many of them to close, impacting poor women and women who reside in rural areas.

14. South Carolina: House approves H 3406, a bill that would ban private coverage of abortion care in plans purchased in the new state insurance exchange. Women who want abortion coverage will have to purchase it separately. In addition, the bill would expand the state’s conscience clause to include euthanasia, cloning and stem cell research. Physicians would be allowed to opt out of providing such services (including abortion) if they conflict with their religious beliefs.

15. South Dakota: Passed HB 1217, mandating a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion procedure. The law will go into effect July 1 and impose the longest waiting period in the U.S. HB 1217 also requires a woman to receive counseling from a crisis pregnancy center (notoriously anti-choice) before she can obtain services. There are no exceptions for rape and incest – only “emergencies”. There are many talks of challenges to the law, including a possible injunction by Planned Parenthood of South Dakota. Nancy Northrup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, points out how requiring women to disclose medical information to third parties who are not physicians is a violation of medical privacy laws. The ACLU has also threatened to bring a lawsuit against the state.

16. Texas: State Senate Committee on State Affairs approved a compromise bill between a House and Senate version of a sonogram bill. The final bill requires a woman see the sonogram, have her listen to the fetal heartbeat and hear a description of the ultrasound in detail before her procedure. The compromise also includes exemptions in cases of rape, incest or instances where the fetus is not expected to survive. The measure also exempts women in rural areas from waiting 24 hours.

17. Virginia: Passed HB 1428, becoming the first state to require abortion clinics to comply with hospital standards. Currently, clinics are licensed by the state and are treated like physician offices, similar to those that provide plastic and corrective eye surgeries, colonoscopies and a range of other outpatient medical procedures. Virginia is the first state to adopt such a requirement, which could include making structural changes to the buildings, making certain equipment mandatory, or increasing training. Opponents of the bill say that it could force up to 17 of the state's 21 abortion clinics to close. Public comment will be heard before the rules are adopted on Sept. 15; the law takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.

In addition, Virginia is another state that will prohibit abortion from being covered under any health insurance plans offered in the state exchange. Governor Robert McDonnell added this amendment to a bill already passed by the General Assembly, establishing insurance exchanges as part of health care reform.

And, done.

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