Summary of Current Anti-Choice Legislation

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Federal:

  • April 26, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which establishes specific criminal penalties for injuring or killing a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. Pro-choice advocates say that the bill could undermine abortion rights because it provides for legal rights as early as conception. More than 20 state legislatures have already passed such legislation and it has also been introduced in other states. It is not known whether the U.S. Senate will consider the bill.
  • The RU-486 Patient Health and Safety Act, which aims to restrict the distribution of the medical abortion regimen, was introduced in both the House and the Senate three months ago.
  • Pending in Congress is the Child Custody Protection Act, which would make it an offense for any person except a parent to take a minor across state lines to have an abortion. Twenty states already have such laws.

State:

  • More than 30 states require the consent or notification of an adult before a minor can have an abortion. In some states, a minor can get a judge’s waiver of parental notification. A notice law just passed in the Illinois Senate. In Florida, a similar law was upheld, but its implementation was delayed so that the case could be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
  • More than 30 states have laws denying public funding for abortions for poor women, except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. A case pending before the Florida Supreme Court alleges that women on Medicaid are denied coverage for medically necessary abortions. In Idaho, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed a bill banning public funds for abortions performed to protect the health of women.
  • Fourteen states enforce laws requiring women wishing to have an abortion to receive information about it and its potential consequences 24 hours before the procedure itself. In Minnesota, such an amendment was attached to a Senate health and human services spending bill, but Gov. Jesse Ventura announced he would veto the bill with that amendment.
  • More than 15 states have passed Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, which impose costly and complicated regulations on abortion providers. These may include requiring that only a physician perform the procedure, that providers have a special license and that facilities meet specific and costly building and health requirements. Some laws also allow women who had abortions to sue for damages years after the procedures. These provisions reduce the number of doctors willing and able to offer abortion services.
  • Two months ago a Louisiana district court blocked a law that allowed women to sue their providers for damages up to 10 years after the procedures. Two months ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by three abortion providers challenging the constitutionality of a South Carolina regulation that, among other things, requires specific doorway widths, hourly air exchange rates and other non-medically related regulations.
  • Laws authorizing special license plates promoting adoption over abortion, the revenues going to anti-choice groups counseling women to have their babies and place them for adoption, are gaining in popularity. The Minnesota state legislature is debating such a law.

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