State legislatures consider myriad proposals to limit abortion
Various proposals to regulate or limit abortions or abortion funding continued to move through state legislatures in early March.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law March 7 a bill requiring an ultrasound to determine gestational age before a woman undergoes an abortion procedure or takes an abortion-inducing drug. The legislation had been amended to exclude victims of rape and incest and to require the routine transabdominal ultrasound rather than the more invasive transvaginal test.
"Most agree that a woman's decision to seek an abortion is difficult, irreversible and life-altering," McDonnell said at the bill signing. "Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent."
Meanwhile, the North Dakota Catholic Conference expressed disappointment at a decision by Judge Wickham Corwin to put on hold implementation of the state's Abortion Drug Safety Law, pending resolution of a lawsuit against it. The law requires that abortion drugs be administered according to the Food and Drug Administration protocol for their use.
"We remain confident, however, that the intent of the Legislative Assembly will be respected and that the courts will respect North Dakotans' desire to build a culture of life that respects and cares for both women and unborn children," the conference said in a Feb. 17 statement.
In Utah, by a 22-6 vote March 8, the Senate passed legislation to increase the waiting period before an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. The only other state with a 72-hour waiting period is South Dakota, where the requirement has been blocked by an injunction.
The Georgia Senate voted 33-18 March 7 in favor of a bill to stop funding of abortion in state employees' health plans. Also under consideration in the state Legislature are measures that would require abortions be performed only in hospitals and prohibiting any abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In Oklahoma March 6, by a vote of 34-8, the state Senate approved a bill requiring doctors to tell women they have the right to hear the fetal heartbeat before an abortion. The Senate also passed the Personhood Act, which says a person's life begins at the moment of conception, by the same vote Feb. 15.
In the state's Democratic primary, which included President Barack Obama and four others, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry got 18 percent of the vote, enough to allow him one delegate at the Democratic National Convention.
In the Arizona Legislature, a House committee approved a measure March 2 that would cut off any funding of Planned Parenthood through the state's family planning programs. A Senate panel OK'd a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, and the full Senate voted 21-9 in favor of a bill that would keep abortion providers out of public and charter schools.
"Many good pieces of legislation are making great progress, and the most problematic bills are not moving," the Arizona Catholic Conference said in a March 2 report on the legislative session.
In South Carolina, a Senate subcommittee unanimously passed the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which defines a baby born alive as a person, even if he or she survived an abortion attempt. A version of the bill overwhelmingly passed the House last year but did not go any further.
In Kansas, a House committee deferred discussion of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would prohibit state employees or agencies from participating in an abortion, until March 12 after employees of the University of Kansas Medical Center raised concerns that the legislation would prevent medical residents from learning how to perform abortions.
In Florida March 1, the House passed by a 78-33 vote a comprehensive abortion bill that would require a 24-hour waiting period, stipulate that physicians must explain to the woman that fetus 20 weeks or older could experience pain, allow only physicians to own abortion clinics and require three hours of ethics training for doctors each year.
The Florida Catholic Conference supports the legislation, saying it contains "several critical measures."
The Texas Catholic Conference in a March 7 statement expressed support for that state's decision to drop Planned Parenthood from its Women's Health Program, which the Obama administration said puts at risk the federal funding of its Medicaid program.
There are only 44 Planned Parenthood participants in the Women's Health Program among more than 2,500 certified providers statewide, the conference statement noted.
"By insisting that the state of Texas cannot direct funds to thousands of providers statewide who offer true, comprehensive women's health care -- and instead require Medicaid funds go to prop up 44 Planned Parenthood clinics -- the federal government risks removing preventative health care from hundreds of thousands of women in Texas," it added.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he will find state funds to continue the Women's Health Program without federal support, if necessary.
At the federal level, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act Feb. 16 by a 20-13 vote. The legislation would prohibit abortions performed based on the unborn child's sex or race and outlaw coercion of any woman to abort because of the child's sex or race.