Across the country, state legislatures are moving to restrict access to abortion to the point of elimination. Though the courts have already struck down several such statutes, including Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban, a wave of new laws is currently making its way through the legislatures of several states, including Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama.
Last week, the Georgia State Senate passed a bill that would prohibit state-sponsored insurance from covering abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest and a narrow exception for health issues. On the same day, Alabama advanced four separate anti-choice provisions that would make it more difficult for minors to obtain abortions, extend the waiting period on abortions, ban abortion after six weeks, and require women to receive more counseling about alternatives before terminating a pregnancy.
“We know that state politicians want abortion to be illegal, and they aren’t always able to do it outright,” Gretchen Borchelt, director of state reproductive health-care policy at the National Women’s Law Center, told RH Reality Check. ”So what they are doing is pushing restrictions that make abortion more unaffordable, or interfere with a woman’s ability to get access to abortion.”
A similar six-week abortion ban has already been put on hold by courts in North Dakota for overstepping Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s House passed its own 20-week abortion ban in late February.
Targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP laws) currently working their way through the legislatures in Arizona and Oklahoma threaten clinic operations more directly. Oklahoma’s new bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives last Thursday, would instate rules for clinics requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a provision similar to the one passed over the summer in Texas and now causing dozens of clinics to close. Arizona’s state House has also approved a new bill that would allow for unannounced inspections of abortion clinics within the state, which may be used by public officials to harass abortion providers.
Finally, in South Dakota, a number of new laws have been introduced on the subject of reproductive rights. In addition to last month’s proposal for a 7-week abortion ban, the state has proposed legislation that would ban sex-selective abortion. The bill passed the House two weeks ago and is presently up for debate in the state Senate. South Dakota’s House also approved a change last week that would prohibit any pregnancy help center not just from discussing abortion, but from discussing adoption or providing referrals to adoption agencies.
Media Resources: ThinkProgress 3/5/14, 3/13/13; WSAZ 2/26/14; Reuters 3/5/14; RH Reality Check 2/12/14, 2/25/14, 3/4/14, 3/5/14; Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3/5/14; New York Times 1/13/14, 3/4/14; Feminist Newswire 2/19/14, 3/6/14