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New Anti-Choice Laws Are Strangling Roe v. Wade

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anti-choice state measures are effectively nullifying Roe v. Wade, a Slate columnist writes this week. That's because pro-choice activists are reluctant to bring legal challenges that could wind up in an unfriendly Supreme Court.

Subhead: 
Anti-choice state measures are effectively nullifying Roe v. Wade, a Slate columnist writes this week. That's because pro-choice activists are reluctant to bring legal challenges that could wind up in an unfriendly Supreme Court.



(WOMENSENEWS)--Many U.S. women have already lost their constitutional right to abortion.

That's the premise of an April 19 column by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate.

She writes that many of the 916 state measures seeking to regulate reproductive health introduced in 49 states since the start of the year infringe on Roe v. Wade. That 1973 Supreme Court decision concluded that women's right to privacy extends to their decision to end a pregnancy.

But pro-choice legal activists--wary of court battles that could go to an unfriendly High Court--are turning a blind eye, Lithwick writes.

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A Louisiana lawmaker this week made it clear that anti-abortion activists are itching for a Supreme Court battle.

Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, has filed legislation for the regular lawmaking session opening April 25 that would ban all abortions in the state and subject the doctor who performs one to prosecution on charges of feticide, Ed Anderson reported in The Times-Picayune on April 20.

When asked how the bill fits with Roe, LaBruzzo was blunt: "I believe it would be in direct conflict with them...and immediately go to court. That is the goal of the individuals who asked me to put this bill in."

Anti-Choice Laws This Year

Among the laws that have passed so far this year is South Dakota's expanded waiting period for abortion from 24 to 72 hours and a requirement that counseling from "crisis pregnancy centers" include scientifically-flawed data on risk factors.

This week Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican serving her first term, signed into law a prohibition on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, making it the fourth state to ban abortions after that date, Steve Olafson reported for Reuters on April 20. Fallin also signed a law preventing health insurers from covering elective abortions.

But the state that really took the anti-choice limelight this week was Indiana, where senators approved a bill that could make the state the first in the nation to end Medicaid coverage for Planned Parenthood services. The Kansas legislature is considering a similar measure, Heather Gillers reported for the Indiana Star.

The Indiana bill also requires doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure has been linked to infertility. It sets 20 weeks as the cutoff when a woman may no longer seek an abortion. The current cutoff is viability of the fetus, which a doctor determines, usually around 24 weeks.

A federal measure to defund Planned Parenthood, being pushed at the national level by U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., recently died in the U.S. Senate.

Pence tried and failed to attach the measure to the 2011 federal budget bill that brought the federal government to the brink of a shutdown before the final version passed in a bitterly fought compromise. Now the 2012 budget battle is beginning and Planned Parenthood funding is bound to go into another and possibly more protracted round.

Pence linked Planned Parenthood defunding to the GOP's intense cost-cutting push. But many anti-choice state measures--such as those requiring women to examine ultrasounds before an abortion--actually add public expense.

Defunding Raises Questions

The extent to which defunding Planned Parenthood can actually increase state-budget strain is raised by Planned Parenthood of Indiana. It says cutting off its $3 million in government funding--for services that included contraception--would cost the state $68 million in Medicaid expenses for unintended pregnancies.

A 2008 study by the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health policy nationwide, found that 31 percent of Indiana women who need contraceptives have those needs met. That's 10 percentage points lower than the national average.

The Indiana bill goes back to the House for approval. That body has approved a version of the bill that did not contain the measure to defund Planned Parenthood. The governor will review the final language if it reaches his desk, his spokesperson said.

The threats to Planned Parenthood extend to its international arm.

On April 20, Andrew Mayeda and Jeremy Warren reported on Canadian defunding threats to International Planned Parenthood Federation, which is funded through the Canadian International Development Agency. Their story ran in numerous Canadian publications including the Montreal Gazette.

The federation operates in six world regions and promotes sexual and reproductive health rights while providing health services, including education and HIV/AIDS and abortion services.

Abortions make up about 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides nationwide. No taxpayer money pays for the procedure, which is covered with patient fees and private donations, but it does pay for contraception and disease screening.

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