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State Legislatures Put Up Flurry of Roadblocks to Abortion

The cult of Moloch is getting angry. – Al Kresta



by Frances Robles via

MIAMI — Oklahoma’s governor this week approved a law extending to 72 hours the mandatory waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. Here in Florida, lawmakers enacted a 24-hour waiting period that requires two separate appointments — one for an ultrasound and information about fetal development and another for the actual procedure.

These are just two laws in a surge of bills passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures this year that make it harder for women to have abortions.

Arkansas led the nation with six new abortion-related laws, including one requiring minors to present a notarized consent from a parent and another saying that a woman more than 20 weeks along must be told that her fetus can feel pain.

Arkansas, along with Arizona, also passed the most novel requirement, requiring doctors to tell patients that drug-induced abortions can be reversed, an assertion that many doctors say is wrong.

The 37 new rules in 11 states are part of a strategy accelerated by abortion opponents in 2011, when provisions restricting abortion access began sweeping state legislatures. More than 200 such laws have passed in the last four years, with Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas leading the charge, according to Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion legal group. This year, more than 300 regulations were proposed in 45 states.

And they keep coming: On Thursday, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks was introduced in Wisconsin, where lawmakers proposed a $10,000 fine or 42-month prison sentence for physicians who break the law.

These laws have had a profound effect in states like Texas, where the number of abortion clinics dropped by half because of strict regulations governing their operation.

Advocates of legislation proposed this year say the restrictions are aimed at safeguarding the health of women. Clinics and mainstream medical groups, however, say most of these rules do not improve patient safety and are thinly disguised efforts to discourage women from having abortions and to make them more expensive, which has a disproportionate effect on the poor.

“State legislatures are restricting how doctors provide medical care related to abortion, where doctors can provide that care, what doctors can say to patients when they provide that care and more,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, the director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

But Anna Paprocki, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, which opposes abortion, said, “The Supreme Court has been clear on this: Not every burden is unconstitutional.” She added, “A lot of the arguments made by the abortion industry against any regulation are red herrings.”

Ms. Paprocki’s group drafted 50 pieces of “model legislation” this year, which made their way to statehouses across the nation. The most frequently proposed bills from these suggestions included limitations on later-term abortions, clinic regulations, hospital admitting privilege requirements for clinic doctors and regulations on abortion-inducing drugs, Americans United for Life said in a report on the 2015 legislative session.

Several states targeted the clinics themselves by instituting costly ways to dispose of fetal remains and requiring doctors to have admitting privileges, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a private research group that supports abortion rights and tracks legislation.

Elizabeth Nash, a senior state policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said some states had approved so many kinds of new rules that together they served to make it difficult for women to obtain an abortion.

“In recent years, we have seen a lot become law because of shifts in state legislatures,” Ms. Nash said.

Kansas and Oklahoma recently banned a standard method in second-trimester abortions, in which the fetus is removed in pieces.

In Florida, State Representative Jennifer Sullivan, a Republican, sponsored a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. The state enacted the law in late April. Credit Steve Cannon/Associated Press

Florida enacted its law, which it calls a “reflection period,” in late April. Abortion providers say it places an undue burden on women who will be required to make two trips to a clinic to end a pregnancy.

“It adds a substantial burden to women’s lives, doubles the amount of time they have to take off work, doubles the child care required, doubles the distance traveled,” said Christopher Estes, the chief medical officer forPlanned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. “It really adds time and expense with no medical justification whatsoever.”

Jennifer Sullivan, a freshman legislator who at 23 is the youngest woman in the Florida House, sponsored the bill.

“I have personally seen those women who are being practically dragged to a clinic against their will,” she said.

Dian Alarcón, Florida field organizer at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told lawmakers that the added obstacles would encourage illegal abortions. She said she herself once had an illegal abortion with no medical care.

Beth Harrison, 33, a personal trainer in Tavares, Fla., testified at a legislative hearing last month that she deeply regretted having an abortion 10 years ago and urged lawmakers to enact the waiting period.

“When they did the ultrasound, the screen was behind me and I happened to turn around and look at it,” Ms. Harrison, who thinks abortion should be illegal, said in an interview. “I saw this baby and I was freaking out.”

There are more than two dozen states that have a mandated waiting period before a woman can have abortion, usually 24 hours, said Michelle Richardson, the director of public policy of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Florida’s version is more stringent, though, because the first counseling session must be done in person; most allow it to be conducted by phone or electronically. She said advocates plan to fight the law, arguing that it violates the right to privacy ensured in Florida’s Constitution.

“We’ll make the policy arguments about protecting a woman’s right to choose and that hurdles are not in her best interest,” Ms. Richardson said. “The law is just out of hope that it will make it so difficult to have abortion that she won’t do it.”

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