Changes In Abortion Legislation Are Sweeping Across The Country. Here’s What You Need To Know

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Grace Carr Reporter
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Abortion legislation has historically been a hot-button topic among liberals and conservatives alike, and 2017 was no exception, with a remarkable number of abortion restriction increases and changes in legislation across the United States.

Conservatives and pro-lifers should feel encouraged after 2017 saw more wins for pro-life legislation than pro-abortion legislation. Including those adopted in 2017, states have enacted 401 abortion restrictions since January 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Legislators in 30 states have introduced abortion bans, with six states enacting new laws in 2017.

A Mississippi House committee approved a bill Tuesday that seeks to outlaw most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. House Bill 1510 would ban women from having abortions after said time stamp, unless the unborn baby is not expected to survive outside the womb or if the woman’s life would be jeopardized by continuing the pregnancy.

Mississippi already outlaws most abortions after 20 weeks gestation. The measure will head to the full House for debate. No state currently bans abortion before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Twenty other states ban abortions after more than 20 weeks gestation.

A Missouri judge ruled in October that the state’s 72-hour waiting period is constitutional, rejecting Planned Parenthood’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order on Missouri’s abortion laws. Missouri is also considering a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, signed House Bill 214 in December, effectively banning doctors from aborting babies testing positive for Down syndrome. The law penalizes doctors for performing abortions on pregnant women who receive a positive test that their baby will have Down syndrome, but does not fine or punish a woman who aborts her baby after receiving a positive test for the congenital disorder. The doctor who performs the abortion would be held responsible and would receive a fourth-degree felony charge, according to The Associated Press.

Down syndrome abortion bans have also been introduced in Oklahoma, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Utah.

The Iowa state senate voted Thursday to approve Senate Study Bill 3143, that outlaws abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected upon ultrasound. A heartbeat typically becomes detectable between six and nine weeks gestation. Any doctor who performs or attempts to perform an abortion on a woman after a heartbeat is detected will be charged with a Class D felony and subject to five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500. The bill does, however, allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. No exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities are included in the bill.

“This may be what our culture is ready for,” said state Sen. Jason Schultz, an Iowa Republican. “Stopping a beating heart is never health care.” The Iowa House of Representatives is currently reviewing a similar bill, H.F. 2163.

The U.S. House approved the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in January, requiring health care practitioners to give the same care to a child born alive after a botched abortion as they would provide to any other child birthed at the same gestational age. They must also ensure that babies born after botched abortions are immediately admitted to a hospital.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, issued an executive order in August to exclude abortion providers from the state’s full-benefit Medicaid program. Nine states have taken steps to exclude abortion providers from either their full-benefit Medicaid programs or Medicaid family planning expansions since 2011.

The Ohio Supreme Court also revoked the license of an abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, Tuesday after years of inspection violations and a failure to meet the state’s abortion clinic standards. The state’s Supreme Court upheld the Ohio Department of Health’s order revoking the license of Toledo’s Capital Care abortion clinic because it repeatedly failed to produce a written transfer agreement with a hospital for emergency cases where women undergoing abortions need immediate transportation to a nearby hospital. State inspectors also found 24 violations at the abortion clinic in the past 10 years, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Toledo now hosts no abortion clinics.

“Efforts to be ready to protect life at the state level is exactly the kind of ground game that policy leaders should be championing across the country,” a Students For Life of America spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement, applauding 2017’s pro-life legislative efforts.

Abortion advocates, however, have seen wins in other legislative areas. The U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation in January that would prevent doctors from performing abortions on women who are 20 weeks pregnant or more. Fifty-one lawmakers voted for the measure and 46 voted against it, but the bill failed to pass the Senate requirement of 60 votes necessary for a debate on the bill.  (RELATED: Senate Fails To Pass The 20-Week Abortion Ban).


Other states are also pushing for increased abortion access, even on college campuses. The California Senate approved a bill in January requiring the state’s public universities and colleges to offer abortion drugs at their health centers. Senate Bill 320, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Connie Leyva, requires the state’s community colleges and public universities to provide women with abortion pills for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy so that they don’t have to travel to get the pills. San Francisco’s Tara Foundation and an anonymous donor have agreed to cover implementation costs estimated between $14 million and $20 million, ABC reported. (RELATED: California Senate Passes Bill Mandating Abortion Pills On College Campuses).

In sum, 2017 has seen a large number of legislative successes for pro-lifers. Nineteen states have adopted 63 new restrictions on abortion access in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s Jan 2, 2018 report. That total is the largest number of abortion restrictions enacted in a year since 2013. Twenty-one states, however, adopted proactive measures to expand access to reproductive health services or to protect reproductive rights in 2017.

Guttmacher senior manager, Elizabeth Nash, notes that 2017 has seen a “dramatic upsurge in proactive efforts to expand access to abortion, contraception, [and] other reproductive health services,” but that many of those efforts have been unsuccessful. Those efforts have largely been a “reaction to all of the abortion restrictions that have been moving,” Nash added, according to The Hill.

Twenty-nine states were “hostile or extremely hostile” to abortion rights in 2017, according to Guttmacher.

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