Thursday, June 27, 2013

Texas’ Abortion Restrictions Failed, But Other States Are Successfully Advancing Them

After a battle that stretched throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) successfully blocked a stringent anti-abortion bill from winning approval in the Texas legislature. Davis noted that defeating SB 5 — which would have criminalized abortion after 20 weeks and forced 90 percent of the abortion clinics in the state to close their doors — represented an “incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them.”

Nevertheless, women in other states haven’t won the same kind of victories. The same provisions included in Texas’ SB 5 are already laws on the books in several other states. Here’s where supporters of reproductive freedom could turn their attention to next:

NORTH DAKOTA: Women in North Dakota have the unfortunate distinction of living in the state with the harshest abortion ban in the nation. Last session, North Dakota criminalized abortion after just six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant. But they didn’t stop there. The state legislature also enacted harsh restrictions on abortion clinics, identical to the ones included in SB 5, that threaten to shut down the last abortion clinic left in the entire state. Women’s health advocates are fighting back in court, and North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic filed yet another lawsuit earlier this week in an attempt to stay open. But women’s reproductive freedom hangs in the balance.

MISSISSIPPI: Like North Dakota, Mississippi is another state that has just one abortion clinic left for all of its residents — and Republicans are working to shut it down with the same type of restrictions included in SB 5. After Republicans successfully enacted harsh abortion clinic restrictions last year, the clinic fought back — and won a temporary reprieve in April from a federal judge. That ruling blocked the state law and prevented Mississippi officials from closing the clinic, but it’s not final. And abortion opponents in the state are finding other methods to limit women’s reproductive freedom, too, like blocking access to medicine-induced abortion care.

ALABAMA: In April, Alabama’s Republican governor approved stringent clinic rules that threaten to shut down the last handful of abortion clinics in the state. Similar to the warnings about SB 5, Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards explained that the new restrictions could “essentially ban abortion statewide.” Alabama’s new anti-abortion law takes effect on July 1, and the state’s four licensed abortion clinics will have 180 days after that point to meet the new, unnecessary standards.

WISCONSIN: Just like Texas, Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to fast-track abortion restrictions before the legislative session ends. Gov. Scott Walker (R) has already thrown his support behind the package of bills, which would mandate invasive ultrasounds for women seeking abortions and shut down abortion clinics. Even though they’re purportedly about women’s health, the measures don’t have the endorsement of any of the major medical groups in the state. But Republicans have advanced them anyway. Lawmakers in the state have complained that other priorities are “languishing” because of the recent focus on anti-abortion bills.

OHIO: This week, the Ohio legislature is set to consider a proposed state budget — but, since abortion opponents have attached budget amendments that seek to limit abortion access, it will likely turn into a fight over preserving women’s reproductive freedom. Ohio’s budget would defund Planned Parenthood, close abortion clinics, and redirect state funding to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers.” And state lawmakers hope to attack abortion rights in other ways, too. Another bill put forth by Ohio Republicans would mandate invasive ultrasounds, require doctors to mislead their patients about abortion risks, extends the waiting period for women seeking abortions, and imposes harsh punishments on medical professionals who don’t follow the new rules. Doctors have already warned about the “disastrous effects” the proposed legislation would have on their patients.

Of course, the above list doesn’t include the states that already criminalize abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, as SB 5 sought to do. According to the Guttmacher Institute, eight states currently have 20-week abortion bans based on the scientifically-disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain after that point. In several of those states — Idaho, Georgia, and Arizona – that type of ban has been blocked in court for violating women’s constitutional protections under Roe v. Wade.

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