40 years after Roe, states seek to limit abortions
Ever since a 40-year-old Supreme Court decision found that abortions are legal in some circumstances, state legislatures across the country have been pushing measures aimed at scaling them back.
It has been rare for states to expand access to abortions since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, but there have been numerous efforts to limit them — including several proposals already introduced in statehouses this year. Here is a look at some of the abortion restrictions currently being considered in Republican-controlled states.
Alabama: The Republican majority in the Alabama House lists as one of its priorities for the upcoming session a bill that would expand safety and health standards for those who perform abortions. The GOP lawmakers said the measure, which is similar to one that died in a committee last year, also would require direct physician involvement in the operation.
Arkansas: The GOP-controlled Arkansas Legislature plans to propose new abortion restrictions this session, including a ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. They also are trying to prevent most abortions from being covered through the health insurance exchange that would be created under the federal health care law and a ban on the use of telemedicine to make the abortion pill available.
Florida: In Florida, Republican Rep. Charles Van Zant has filed a bill that would ban abortion except in cases where the mother’s life or health is at risk. Anyone performing an abortion or operating an abortion clinic would face felony charges and up to life in prison. It is the fourth straight year he has filed the abortion ban, and it has died without a committee vote each of the previous three years.
Indiana: Indiana lawmakers are again looking at ways to curb abortions, two years after former Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Senate Republicans have proposed mandating abortion providers hand out pamphlets with color pictures of aborted fetuses and making it a felony for a patient to abort a fetus in cases where she knows the gender or knows there would be a genetic abnormality.
Kansas: Republican Gov. San Brownback has signed a series of tough anti-abortion measures during his first two years in office, and anti-abortion groups are pushing new legislation this year. Kansans for Life is asking lawmakers to ensure the state doesn’t finance abortions, even indirectly, to ban abortions because of the fetus’ gender and allow wrongful-death lawsuits when a fetus dies because of an accident.
Kentucky: Republican state Rep. Stan Lee says he plans to introduce legislation in this year’s session that would prevent insurance plans made available to Kentuckians under federal health care reforms from paying for abortions. Lee intends to push for the legislation despite assurances from Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration that abortions won’t be covered.
Mississippi: Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said repeatedly that he wants Mississippi to be abortion-free and that he would sign additional abortion restrictions into law. Bills filed in the Legislature this year would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected and regulate drugs that are used to induce abortions.
Nebraska: Lawmakers will consider a bill this year that would require abortion clinic websites to link to a state webpage that shows ultrasound images of fetuses. The state webpage would also show alternatives to abortion and a list of health care locations that offer free ultrasounds.
Oklahoma: A so-called “personhood” proposal shot down in the Oklahoma Legislature last year that would grant citizenship rights to a fertilized human egg has been introduced again in the GOP-controlled House. This year’s bill states that life begins at conception and that a fertilized human egg at every stage of development has “all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.”
Tennessee: A state Supreme Court decision in 2000 threw out several Tennessee laws restricting access to abortions, and the ruling has largely thwarted efforts since then to impose new ones. But a proposed constitutional amendment to reverse that ruling goes before Tennessee voters next year.
Texas: Texas Gov. Rick Perry has set as a goal for the legislative session “to make abortion at any stage a thing of the past.” The GOP-controlled Legislature is considering proposals to limit when a woman can have abortion, take away a judge’s authority to allow teenage girls, under certain circumstances, to have an abortion without their parent’s permission, and ban abortion coverage in insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.
Virginia: Last year Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion, and an attempt to repeal it already has failed in this year’s General Assembly. Still pending are bills to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks gestation and to confer on fetuses the full rights of a person.