Anti-abortion measures gaining steam around the country

Twice as many anti-abortion-rights state laws were passed in 2011 than in 2010, according to a new report by NARAL Pro-Choice America, the nation’s largest abortion-rights policy group. Even more legislation is expected in 2012, NARAL policy experts said during a Thursday press briefing on the 21st edition of “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States.”

In Colorado, a personhood amendment is expected to come before voters in November.

In 2011, 26 states enacted 69 laws that in some way restricted access to abortions or reduced funding for family planning services (what NARAL calls “anti-choice” laws), said NARAL President Nancy Keenan, who told reporters that NARAL has been tracking abortion-rights-related legislation since 1995. And since that time, NARAL has calculated that 713 anti-abortion laws have been passed across America. The record year for highest number of abortion-related legislation passed in a single year was 1999, with 70 laws, just one more than last year, Keenan said.

“Last year, we predicted that our opponents would ignore the public’s call to focus on the nation’s immediate challenges, such as the economy,” Keenan said. “Sadly for women, our predictions came true at near record levels. Lawmakers waged a War on Women, and as a result, women in many states will see more political interference in their personal, private medical decisions.”

Hope for abortion rights last year, Keenan said, came from vetoes of anti-abortion bills by the Democratic governors of Minnesota and Montana; U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) describing — on the House floor — a late-term abortion she had due to health reasons, effectively humanizing the debate; and Mississippi voters rejecting a state constitutional amendment that would have outlawed abortion and potentially outlawed in-vitro fertilization and certain forms of birth control.

In 2011, Arizona, Florida, and Kansas enacted the most anti-abortion legislation in 2011, with five measures each, according to the NARAL report. Florida was among 21 states to receive an “F” on women’s reproductive rights. NARAL gave the nation as a whole a “D.” The 2012 “report card” can be viewed here (PDF).

Donna Crane, policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation (NARAL’s 501(c)3 arm) told reporters that 2012 could be a record-breaking year for anti-abortion legislation. She explained that NARAL has labeled seven states “fully pro-choice” because in these states Democrats control the governor’s office and both state houses; 19 states have been labeled “fully anti-choice” because in these states Republicans control the governor’s office and both state houses; and 25 states are “mixed-choice.”

Based on this assumption and recent legislative trends related to abortion, NARAL suggests that in 2012:

  • 36 states could introduce mandatory ultrasound laws.
  • 28 states could introduce bans on private insurance coverage of abortion
  • 38 states could introduce “copycat” legislation first introduced in Nebraska in 2010 that bans abortions after 20 weeks without any exceptions.
  • 40 states could introduce laws that would penalize doctors who fail to determine if race or sex is a factor in a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.
  • 33 states could introduce legislation prohibiting abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds for other health services they provide.
  • 5 states — Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado and Ohio — could Florida and Montana in Personhood-style amendment initiatives.

Lissy Moskowitz, deputy policy director of NARAL, said that federal legislative trends expected to be carried over in 2012 include attempts to strip federal family planning funding from abortion providers, to prohibit any insurance coverage — even private — of abortion services, to enact federal race-/sex-selective abortion legislation, and to dismantle parts of Obama’s health-care reform act that guarantee coverage of gynecological exams, birth control and emergency contraception. Moskowitz noted that in 2011 the House of Representatives voted on abortion-related issues eight times, compared with one time in 2010, three times in 2009, zero times in 2008, and two times in 2007 and 2006.

The NARAL representatives also pointed out that if any one of the current GOP presidential candidates unseats President Obama in November, the above federal laws would have a much greater chance of succeeding. Last night in Greenville, S.C., all the candidates but frontrunner Mitt Romney attended an anti-abortion presidential forum sponsored by Personhood USA, during which Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum stated support for personhood-style amendments without exceptions for rape or incest and promised to veto any piece of legislation that includes family-planning funding for abortion providers.

NARAL has created a graphic look of anti-abortion legislation in 2011 compared to other years here. All the information in the report is available here.

The same day NARAL released its report, anti-abortion-rights policy group Americans United for Life released its own 2012 rankings, based on which states enacted the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in 2011. Unsurprisingly, AUL ranked Louisiana its best state in “protecting life,” while NARAL ranked Louisiana its worst state in supporting reproductive rights. AUL’s worst state is Washington, which is NARAL’s second-best state. NARAL ‘s best state is California, which was ranked second-worst by AUL.

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