By: Dan Weil
It’s not just in the halls of Congress where abortion opponents are advancing their agendas.
At least 11 states have passed laws this year regulating or restricting abortions, and bills have passed at least one house of the legislature in four others, The New York Times reports.
Arizona has banned reimbursement for abortions in the state employees’ health plan, while Nebraska has banned all abortions after 20 weeks, arguing that at that point, the fetus can feel pain.
Just last week, Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour Mississippi signed a bill forbidding insurers from covering abortion in the new insurance exchanges created by the healthcare reform law.
And the Oklahoma legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of a bill making doctors who perform abortions answer 38 questions about each procedure, including the women’s reasons for having an abortion.
“Ninety percent of pro-life legislation happens at the states,” Daniel McConchie, vice president for government affairs at anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, told The New York Times.
“While Congress is the main focus of attention for so many people in the country, state legislatures have greatest impact on daily lives, and life-related legislation is no exception.”
Much of this year’s activity stems from the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on partial-birth abortions, which gave the states more room to curtail abortion.
About 370 state bills regulating abortion were introduced in 2010, compared with about 350 in each of the previous five years, and 250 a year in the early 1990s, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
At least 24 of this year’s bills have passed, and the final total may reach the 2005 peak of 34, Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate at the institute, told The Times.
“The right-to-life folks are seeing just how far they can push things,” Joseph Dellapenna, an abortion expert at Villanova University law school, told the paper.
It’s “almost a certainty” that the Supreme Court will ultimately review one of the new laws, he says.
“It could turn out they can push things a lot farther than people think, or, it could not.”
The anti abortion cause may gain ground in Congress too. A bipartisan bill has been introduced to eliminate any chance of federal funding for abortion under the new healthcare law.