March 18, 2010 — The following summarizes recent developments on abortion-related legislation in four states.
~ Idaho: The state House this week is expected to debate a bill (S 1353) that would create new protections for nurses, pharmacists and other medical workers who refuse to provide services related to abortion, emergency contraception, end-of-life care and stem cell therapy because of moral objections, the AP/Idaho Statesman reports. Current Idaho law grants physicians so-called "conscience" protections in abortion-related cases. On Tuesday, House lawmakers rejected a Democratic amendment that would have eliminated the bill's provision on end-of-life care. The state Senate already has approved the bill (AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/16).
~ Kansas: Antiabortion-rights state lawmakers have renewed a push to pass additional restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy, with a focus on increasing reporting requirements for the procedure beyond 21 weeks' gestation, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. Lawmakers said they want physicians to disclose a patient's medical diagnosis to justify an abortion after 21 weeks. Current Kansas law permits abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy if the woman's life is in danger or to prevent permanent damages to her health. A bill (SB 218) that cleared the state Legislature last year included reporting requirements and would have allowed patients and families to sue physicians over allegedly illegal abortions; then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the measure in April 2009. Three state senators and three state House members plan to meet Thursday to discuss the new proposal. Sen. Pat Apple (R) said the measure's supporters hope to secure enough support to override a possible veto by Gov. Mark Parkinson (D) (Hanna, AP/Kansas City Star, 3/16).
~ South Carolina: State lawmakers on Tuesday voted 57-54 to exempt cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman's life from a proposal to prohibit the state employee insurance plan from covering abortion procedures, the Columbia State reports. The state House Ways and Means Committee last month approved the abortion-coverage ban as part of a $5 billion budget bill. According to the State, Tuesday's vote came after an "emotional floor debate" over whether incest and rape victims should receive abortion coverage. The State reports that Rep. Lester Branham (D), a former minister, "seemed to sway" lawmakers with his comments that an "act of impregnating a girl against her will is not a gift of God. It's a crime" (O'Connor, Columbia State, 3/17).
~ Tennessee: The state House Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday postponed for one week a vote on legislation (HB 3301) that would require abortion providers to post signs stating that women cannot be coerced into abortions against their will, the AP/Chattanooga Times & Free Press. The vote was delayed after some lawmakers said they needed more time to review the bill. Although Tennessee law already prohibits coercion to have an abortion, bill author Rep. Susan Lynn (R) claims that many women are unaware of the statute and that the sign would help "spell out what's in the law" (Johnson, AP/Chattanooga Times & Free Press, 3/16). Under the bill, abortion providers would have to post a sign stating, "It is against the law for anyone, regardless of the person's relationship to you, to coerce you to have an abortion. By law, we cannot perform an abortion on you unless we have your freely given and voluntary consent. It is against the law to perform an abortion on you against your will. You have the right to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened criminal offense to coerce an abortion" (Bill text, 3/17). The Senate Judiciary Committee currently is reviewing a companion bill (AP/Chattanooga Times & Free Press, 3/16).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership