Key Findings: Threats to Choice

Posted on March 19, 2012

NARAL Pro-Choice America, 2012

In 2011, anti-choice lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures across the country attacked women’s health and took every opportunity to restrict further the right to choose. In Congress, the anti-choice leadership of the House of Representatives declared blocking women’s access to legal abortion care a “top priority.” The House took eight votes on choice – the highest number since 2000. While most of these ultimately failed to advance, anti-choice lawmakers were able to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban by forcing it into in the FY’11 budget deal. Consequently, the city was forced abruptly to drop coverage for abortion services from its health programs. At least 28 D.C. Medicaid enrollees scheduled to receive abortion care just days after the budget was struck suddenly were left on their own to scramble for funds.

At the state level, among the 69 newly enacted anti-choice measures, five states enacted pre-viability bans on abortion care after 20 weeks that do not include adequate exceptions to protect women’s health or for cases of rape or incest. Eight states passed laws prohibiting abortion coverage, either in the state’s health-insurance exchange or in the state’s entire private insurance market, and four states enacted measures prohibiting abortion coverage for state employees. In addition, legislatures in several states blocked women’s access to affordable contraception by slashing state family-planning budgets. Seven states went so far as to enact laws that restrict, or in some cases outright bar, state funds from going to Planned Parenthood or to any health center that provides abortion care.

In addition to legislation that would ban access to abortion, states also considered and enacted a wide variety of other anti-choice bills, including those that force providers to tell women ideological and factually incorrect information about abortion care; restrict young women’s access to family-planning and abortion services; force women to undergo mandatory ultrasounds; and place unnecessary and burdensome requirements on abortion providers. Laws that specifically regulate abortion providers particularly threaten access to abortion care because they seek to reduce further the already declining number of providers. Already, 87 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, according to The Guttmacher Institute.

Opponents of choice also continue to push legislative measures that run the gamut from granting pharmacists the right to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions to outright bans on abortion, even when a woman’s health is in danger. And many courts continue to rule in favor of anti-choice state provisions, further legitimizing harmful laws and inviting other states to enact similarly restrictive measures.

Total anti-choice measures enacted in 2011:

  • 26 states enacted 69 anti-choice measures in 2011.
  • Arizona, Florida, and Kansas enacted the most antichoice legislation in 2011, with five measures each.
  • Since 1995, states have enacted 713 anti-choice measures.

Anti-choice measures enacted in 2011 included:

  • Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma enacted pre-viability bans on abortion care after 20 weeks. None of these laws includes an adequate exception to protect women’s health or for cases in which the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. These laws are clearly designed as a challenge to Roe v. Wade.
  • Eight states – Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia – passed abortion-coverage bans. Some of these measures ban coverage of abortion in the state’s health-insurance exchange; others prohibit abortion coverage in the state’s entire private insurance market.
  • Seven states enacted laws restricting state funds from going to Planned Parenthood or to any health center that provides abortion care: Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. These attacks took several forms, ranging from a New Hampshire executive-council decision to refuse to honor an existing contract with Planned Parenthood to budget bills that barred Planned Parenthood from receiving any state funds.
  • Kansas and Virginia imposed onerous regulations on abortion providers that are intended to shut down all clinics that offer abortion care. In Kansas, providers were given only two weeks to comply with numerous new construction and facilities requirements that are wholly unrelated to patient safety. In Virginia, the state now will regulate first-trimester abortion clinics as a type of hospital. This regulatory scheme includes extensive requirements that are impossible to meet without extensive renovations or new construction.
  • Arizona passed a law that removes the charitable tax status of any organization that provides, refers for, or provides coverage of abortion. The measure is so broad that it could sweep in any hospital or non-profit health center that refers for abortion as a standard of care or a non-profit organization that provides its employees with a comprehensive health plan that includes abortion coverage.
  • Arizona became the first state in the nation to enact a measure that imposes criminal penalties on doctors who provide abortion care with the knowledge that race or sex is a factor in the woman’s decision.
  • South Dakota passed a first-of-its-kind biased-counseling mandate. Of the law’s many onerous provisions, it requires a woman seeking abortion care to submit to an in-person lecture at a so-called crisis pregnancy center, many of which are biased, anti-choice, anticontraception facilities. The law also includes a precedent-setting 72-hour mandatory delay before care. This law has been temporarily enjoined pending the conclusion of ongoing litigation.

States That Enacted Anti-Choice Measures in 2011

Posted in: United States