In comparison to 2013, 2014 brought us a reduction in the amount of anti-abortion bills that went before state legislatures. It’s early yet, but it looks like 2015 will see a re-opening of the floodgates for legislation that restricts abortion. Anti-abortion advocates in at least nine states have prefiled bills that would unnecessarily regulate and restrict abortion.
Legislators in Iowa and Arkansas are expected to consider bills that would ban or limit telemedicine abortions. In Wisconsin and New Hampshire, lawmakers will be debating bills that attempt to change the definition of viability by banning abortions after 20 weeks. Both states are also going to be looking at bills that could further reduce the use of Medicaid funds to cover abortions in situations of rape, incest or life endangerment. Anti-abortion activists in South Carolina are also looking to ban abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, but they are trying to do so under the guise of a “fetal pain” bill. Two other states – Tennessee and Texas – will be seeing bills that add unnecessary hoops women must jump through before they can obtain an abortion, including mandatory adoption seminars and mandatory ultrasounds. While no bills have been filed in Ohio as of yet, the state’s Right to Life president has said that he’ll be working with Ohio lawmakers to draft a “rather large and robust” set of abortion laws this year.
The state with the grimmest outlook is Missouri. Seven different anti-abortion bills have already been filed in the state. Two of the bills would add new complications to Missouri’s parental consent laws for minors. Another bill, a paternal consent bill that would force a woman to get written and notarized consent from the man who impregnated her, has already made headlines. Other bills Missourian lawmakers will be considering include: a bill to ban use of public funds to finance projects related to abortion services; a bill to deny paternal custody of a child if the father attempted to coerce the mother into having an abortion; a mandatory and medically inaccurate anti-abortion video that women must watch prior to having an abortion; and a bill that protects pregnancy crisis centers.
The landscape looks equally ominous on the national level. On Tuesday, the first day of the 114th Congress, Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act – i.e., a fetal pain bill. This same legislation already passed the House last year. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has promised to reintroduce his 20-week abortion bill that was stalled in the Senate last year. Of course, it's too early to tell what will come of these bills in the months to come. However, making the introduction of these bills the first order of business for the new Congress sends a message that abortion rights advocates should be preparing for a difficult fight.
Bill titles for Maine's current legislative session haven't been made public yet. We could see a return of bills aimed at taking away reproductive rights or a bill allowing people to use their religion to discriminate against others. Here at the ACLU, we'll remain vigilant and ready to defeat whatever unfriendly bills may appear.