State-Level Politicians Around America Press for Radical Restrictions on Reproductive Health Care
You’ve caught up on what went down in Congress with the nation’s family planning program — and you spoke up to help derail Paul Ryan and Donald Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and block patients’ access to Planned Parenthood. The volume of news from Washington in recent weeks about your access to health care is tough to overstate.
As those developments happened, though, gynoticians around the country continued to attempt to chip away, bit by bit, citizens’ access to sexual and reproductive health care. We’ve kept an eye on developments, so here’s a quick look:
Iowa: State Legislature Passes 20-Week Ban
State House members approved an extreme, unconstitutional 20-week ban on safe, legal abortion in Iowa — but only after a furious debate in the chamber forced lawmakers to table an eleventh-hour amendment that would have effectively eliminated access to the procedure outright.
The furor erupted when just before a committee meeting, House lawmakers attempted to append an amendment that would have banned safe, legal abortion at a point before many women even know they’re pregnant. Faced with an ensuing outcry, however, lawmakers opted to discard the “heartbeat” proposal the next day.
In an indication of the radicality of the bill, or the carelessness of its drafting, Iowa state Rep. Shannon Lundgren — an extremist among the sponsors of the bill — said in a hearing that she interpreted it to require women who miscarry after 20 weeks of pregnancy to carry their pregnancy to term. (Iowa House Republicans later claimed that she “misspoke.”) House Democrats warned that a related bill pending before lawmakers late last month could have allowed the parents of an unmarried adult woman to block her access to safe, legal abortion.
The full House approved the 20-week ban legislation on April 5. Legislators reconciled the house and senate versions of the proposed ban on April 18 — meaning the bill can now go to the governor for signature.
Women in Handmaid’s Tail-inspired costumes protest at the Iowa State Capitol on March 28.
Arkansas: New Law May Force Invasive Medical History Investigations
In the latest of a series of attacks on access to reproductive and sexual health care this session, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed first-of-its-kind legislation on March 30. The bill purports to block abortions based solely on the sex of the fetus — but it's actually just another trick in the anti-abortion extremists’ handbook against access to safe, legal abortion.
Physicians would need to invest significant extra time in reviewing a patient's medical history and effort discerning a patient's true motives in seeking abortion. In practice, the measure would serve only to delay women's access to safe, legal abortion.
“health care providers should never be forced to investigate patients for the reasons behind their personal, private decisions,”
and went on to say that
“measures of this kind are fueled by harmful and racist stereotypes about women of color.”
Indeed, a similar federal bill introduced in 2016 drew criticism from us for creating a chilling effect on the quality and efficacy of care women of color receive.
The bill was the seventh anti-reproductive health measure signed by Governor Hutchinson in 2017. It would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
Kentucky: State’s Last Abortion Provider Wins Injunction
In addition to enacting a law that pushes Planned Parenthood to the back of the queue for state funding of reproductive health services, Kentucky used spurious grounds in late March to attempt to shutter the only reproductive health center in the state that offers safe, legal abortion.
Relying on a targeted restriction of abortion providers (similar to what the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt), Kentucky officials tried to revoke the license of a Louisville women’s health center, citing supposed “deficiencies” in service agreements that Kentucky officials approved in identical form the year before.
A federal judge temporarily blocked the move against the health center, agreeing that:
“the rights of … [the clinic’s] patients would be immediately and irreparably harmed” if the clinic were to close.
State officials suspended efforts to force the clinic to immediately close in the wake of the judge’s order.
Source: the Louisville Courier-Journal
Demonstrators protest in Louisville on April 2 in defense of access to safe, legal abortion in Kentucky.
Pennsylvania: ‘Defund’ Bill Introduced
Hold onto your handmaid outfits: Extreme state Senator Scott Wagner, a 2018 candidate for Pennsylvania governor, co-sponsored legislation in late March that would block patients with low incomes who rely on state funds to access public health care programs from getting care at Planned Parenthood, and — similar to the just-signed Kentucky statute (see above) — push Planned Parenthood to the back of the line for receipt of state family planning grants.
Wagner went even further earlier in 2017, introducing an omnibus bill that combined a 20-week ban on safe, legal abortion with an outright prohibition on the most common method that doctors use for abortion in the second trimester.
Kansas: Medicaid Expansion Blocked
In late March, extreme state Governor Sam Brownback — an ardent foe of women’s health services and — blocked a legislative push to expand access to health care via Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Brownback vetoed a bill approved by both houses of the state legislature by sweeping margins, and in an April 3 vote, state house members failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.
The governor’s move means the denial of improved access to health care services, including family planning services, to more than 150,000 Kansans with low incomes.
Fight back for reproductive and sexual health care — learn the top three steps you can take today to defend reproductive rights.