17 May 2010

Missouri Follows Oklahoma in Passing Stringent Anti-Abortion Laws

More proof that conservative ideology is on the march: First, in late April, the Oklahoma legislature overrode the governor’s vetoes of two laws that would increase restrictions to abortion access. Then, late last week, the Missouri state legislature followed suit, passing the aptly named “Abortion Restriction Bill” which puts further limitations on access to abortions. Both votes are a sharp indication of the fragile state of reproductive rights across the country – and a reminder of how important our grantees’ work on the reproductive justice front continues to be.

The passage of the Oklahoma bills -- one of which requires a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultra-sound and mandates “that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus,” making no exceptions for rape and incest victims – makes Oklahoma one of the most restrictive states in the nation when it comes to obtaining an abortion. And Missouri’s newly minted law comes with a bevy of fresh limitations, similarly designed to curtail abortion access. According to Robin Marty, writing for RH Reality Check,
Under the new law, physicians are required to repeat medically inaccurate statements to the patient prior to the procedure and all informed consent processes must be done face to face, adding to the length of time required to obtain an abortion. Abortions will no longer be included in any private health care plans in the state, regardless of whether or not a woman would have paid for the coverage with separate funds. Also, clinics will be required to put up signs that read that the state will provide support for mothers who decide to continue their pregnancies, although the state does not at this time have resources in place to give to these mothers.
Oklahoma and Missouri are not alone. At present, at least a dozen states are considering legislation that would put harsher restrictions on access to abortions, including by cutting off insurance coverage of such procedures even in instances where policies are privately funded (just one example of how right-leaning state legislatures are already challenging health-care reform). States like Florida and Nebraska have already passed versions of these more restrictive abortion bills, and nationwide there are said to be more than 500 pieces of anti-abortion legislation winding their way through state houses – a level of activity that hasn’t been seen since the late 1990s.

The impact of measures like these are precisely why the Ms. Foundation maintains a steadfast commitment to supporting grassroots organizations that are fighting for reproductive justice across the country. Organizations like the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Young Women United – all of which are working to ensure that women in diverse communities, and at all stages of their lives, have access to comprehensive reproductive services. We’ve long known that the “next frontier” in the fight for abortion rights would play out at the state level, which is why we’ve funded groups like Faith Aloud, based in Missouri -- a group that has been mobilizing its members to lobby the legislature in defense of abortion rights. So far this year they’ve already held three advocacy days in Jefferson City, and continue to stand up for the rights of women, even as their legislature moves in exactly the opposite direction.

For a recent overview of legislation pending at the state level, visit NARAL's Blog for Choice.

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