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Monday, August 29, 2005

Law - Access to Abortion Pared at State Level

"Access to Abortion Pared at State Level" is the headline to a lengthy front-page story today in the Washington Post. Some quotes:

This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.

Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care.

Three states have passed bills requiring that women seeking an abortion be warned that the fetus will feel pain, despite inconclusive scientific data on the question. West Virginia and Florida approved legislation recognizing a pre-viable fetus, or embryo, as an independent victim of homicide. And in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has summoned lawmakers into special session Sept. 6 to consider three antiabortion proposals. * * *

[G]rass-roots activists have been changing the legal landscape one state at a time. In most cases, the antiabortion forces have prevailed, adding restrictions on when and where women can get contraceptive services and abortions, and how physicians provide them.

Antiabortion activists say they have pursued a two-pronged approach that aimed to reduce the number of abortions immediately through new restrictions and build a foundation of lower court cases designed to get the high court to eventually reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making the procedure legal.

On the other side, a handful of states have approved provisions that make it easier for women to get emergency contraception, known as the "morning after" pill. However, two Republican governors, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and George E. Pataki of New York, vetoed such bills.

Locally, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has signed legislation that makes a "viable fetus" a distinct victim of a crime such as murder or manslaughter. Virginia did not enact any laws related to abortion. * * *

South Dakota has been among the most active states, passing five new laws, including a "trigger" law that would impose an immediate abortion ban after any Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. * * *

For the small and dwindling number of physicians providing abortions, it has been frustrating to encounter new regulations dictating non-medical requirements such as the width of doorways and the size of hallways, said Steven Emmert, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.

"Those opposed to abortion are finding new and different ways to increase the roadblocks and the hoops [that] providers and patients have to jump through," Emmert said.

Missouri, for example, has set aside $1 million to encourage low-income pregnant women to carry a pregnancy to full term and potentially give the infant up for adoption.

"A theme we're seeing this session is for legislatures to go back and put on more restrictions," said Katherine Grainger, legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "They passed all these laws, and now they're saying, 'Let's see what else we can get.' "

Lawmakers in several states toughened existing laws affecting girls younger than 18 who seek an abortion. Today, 35 states require parental involvement of some type, according to a tally by Stateline.org, an online public policy journal funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 29, 2005 03:27 PM
Posted to General Law Related