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07.17.12 - There's no question that 2011 was a truly seismic year for reproductive rights in the U.S. More than 60 laws damaging women's access to reproductive health care passed in 24 states, an unprecedented assault on women's health care. And this year, the powerful aftershock has further strained women's reproductive autonomy. As of July, 15 states had already passed around 40 harmful laws—marking another year of unbridled animosity toward women.
The similarities between 2011 and 2012 don't stop there. The Center for Reproductive Rights once again has responded to these attacks with force, taking aim at several laws that are brazenly unconstitutional and threaten to have a severe impact on women and their health.
The Center has documented the scope of this latest chapter of anti-choice aggression in the 2012 Mid-Year Legislative Wrap-Up. The report includes details on the most significant restrictions passed as well as the Center's ongoing response to several measures.
Arizona passed an omnibus bill that is one of the most extreme abortion laws in recent memory, posing multiple threats to women. The most dangerous is a ban on abortion at a time when many women undergo prenatal testing to evaluate their own health and the status of their pregnancy. Doctors may diagnose fetal abnormalities or dangerous health issues for women during this critical period—and this law could make it impossible to respond appropriately to these diagnoses.
Worse still, Arizona's cruel, callous, and patently unconstitutional new ban allows exceptions only in dire medical emergencies, when a woman's physical health or life is in imminent danger. The Center took immediate action to stop this threat to women's lives, filing a lawsuit on July 12. We will be back in court on July 25 to prevent this dangerous law from taking effect.
Mississippi has a long tradition of choking off access to reproductive health care. The state has become so hostile to providers, behind a raft of restrictions and a pervading culture of intolerance, that only one reproductive health clinic providing abortion services remains. The state legislature took aim at the clinic in 2012 with another targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP). The bill's sponsors, as well as the governor, have publicly stated that they hope this law, which requires providers to gain admitting privileges at a local hospital, will wipe out abortion completely. In fact, they know it will. Hospitals have strict rules about offering privileges to doctors, and want them to admit patients regularly. But women rarely—less than half a percent—need additional medical treatment after an abortion.
Once again, the Center fought back, and once again, we won. On July 13, a federal judge provided crucial protection against the state's enforcement of the law, allowing the clinic to stay open while the clinics' doctors await hospitals' decisions on admitting privileges.
While it never became a law, efforts by anti-abortion activists in Oklahoma to amend the state's constitution with a personhood measure—which would ban abortion under all circumstances, many types of contraception, and in vitro fertilization—failed when the Center won an injunction against the ballot initiative. A judge for Oklahoma's Supreme Court called the potential measure "repugnant to the Constitution of the United States."
State legislatures with an anti-choice agenda have proven in 2012 that they are working from the same playbook. Once again, multiple states have proposed—and four (Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) have passed—laws limiting or eliminating women's access to insurance coverage for abortion.
Wisconsin and Oklahoma have placed new restrictions on the use of telemedicine, a critical method of providing health care to women in rural areas who are able to access better health care services through this important new technology.
Abortion providers across the country continue to struggle against a flood of laws designed to make it more difficult, or even impossible, to deliver reproductive health care. Seventeen states proposed some kind of TRAP law in 2012. Several have passed and a few are pending.
More detailed information is available about all of these laws and other developments in the 2012 Mid-Year Legislative Wrap-Up. Meantime, we continue to monitor assaults on reproductive rights across the U.S.—and we will keep up our ferocious legal counterattack against the most dangerous threats to the foundation of women's rights.