At least 46 anti-abortion bills are already in front of state legislatures in 2017
State legislatures have been back in session a little more than a week and lawmakers are already going after abortion rights. At least 46 anti-abortion bills have been introduced or are pending in 14 states as of Thursday morning — 15 in Missouri alone, according to research compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that supports abortion rights, and additional reporting by VICE News. Many of these measures are nearly identical and fit distinct patterns, such as “personhood” bills in Missouri, Texas, and Florida that aim to grant fetuses a right to life from the moment of conception.
See a full list of these measures by state below.
Lawmakers in five states (Kentucky, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, and Florida) introduced bills to ban abortion after 20 weeks of fertilization, when, they argue, fetuses can feel pain. These bills are modeled after legislation drafted by the anti-abortion organization National Right to Life, which has made passing the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” in states around the country a priority in recent years. Nebraska was the first state to adopt this law, in 2010, and now at least 14 other states have 20-week bans in place, according to Guttmacher. Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a 20-week ban into law late last year after months of controversy surrounding a different bill that would have banned abortions at six weeks.
Another common proposal seeks to ban “dilation and extraction” abortions, the most common procedure used during the second trimester. Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, and New Jersey have filed bills that would make the procedure illegal except in rare cases. This is another piece of legislation drafted and backed by National Right to Life (the group calls the measure the “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act”). The Texas chapter of the organization said passing this law is its number one priority for the upcoming legislative session. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only two states that currently ban dilation and extraction abortions.
Medical evidence does not support the claim that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks or through the second-trimester procedure.
These measures reflect the “personhood” movement, which is premised on the idea that an unborn fetus is entitled to the same constitutional rights as a person. The notion that life begins at conception, or at the first detection of a heartbeat, is the basis for bills like Indiana’s HB 1134, which seeks to redefine the beginning of human life as “when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.” Bills that require women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and view it, like Missouri’s HB 404, and bills that mandate funeral requirements for fetal remains, like Texas’ HB 201, also reinforce the notion that abortion ends a viable human life.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion until the fetus was deemed viable (defined as being being able to live for a prolonged period of time outside the mother’s womb, usually at the start of the third trimester).
These measures mark a new trend in the anti-abortion fight. In recent years, anti-abortion activists pushed for burdensome regulations on abortion facilities and doctors (so-called TRAP laws, such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals or dictating the width of hallways inside abortion clinics) in the name of ensuring the safety of women. But the 2017 measures suggest anti-abortion efforts are no longer focused on ensuring women’s access to a safe medical procedure; rather, they seek to limit abortion in the name of protecting fetuses.
“More legislation we’re seeing now is focusing on the fetus and really ignores the woman and her situation completely,” said Elizabeth Nash, who is the state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute and has been tracking this legislation.
This is likely only the tip of the iceberg of abortion restrictions in states, Nash added. “We expect to see several hundred more provisions by mid-February,” she said, after all the states are back in session and the filing period is over.
Of course, not all of these measures are guaranteed to pass. But the majority have come in Republican-controlled states, several of which recently saw Republicans take complete control of their legislatures in the 2016 election. In Kentucky, for instance, Republicans now control both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship. Two anti-abortion bills were introduced there in the first few hours after the legislature opened and were quickly passed and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin on Monday. The ACLU has already sued the state to block the legislation.
About 60 bills introduced so far in nine states seek to protect reproductive healthcare for women. These bills go beyond abortion; most propose added protections for funding and access to contraception. Others seek to include sexual violence education in school curricula, to expand Medicaid to cover family planning services, and to repeal some of the restrictions on abortion providers the Supreme Court struck down last year.
Below are the anti-abortion measures that have been filed or introduced in states around the country in 2017, as of Jan. 12. (Note: The R or D designation next to state name marks where one party has control over both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office.)
- HB 1032: “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.” Bans dilation and extraction abortions.
- HB 2041: Imposes various restrictions on healthcare facilities providing abortions (so-called Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers or TRAP laws), including certain building code rules and licensure fees and requirements for abortion providers and requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.
- SB 203: “Florida Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” Makes it illegal to perform an abortion on a fetus that is capable of feeling pain, recommended as 20 weeks after fertilization (with discretion left to the physician). (Florida’s legislative session does not begin until March 7. This bill was pre-filed 1/11.)
- HB 1134: Personhood bill. Redefines human life as beginning at conception and bans abortion.
- HB 1128: Informed consent requirement. Requires that a pregnant woman be informed orally and in writing before a chemical abortion that the chemical abortion may be possibly arrested or reversed.
- SB 118: Mandatory ultrasound requirement. Requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on the woman seeking an abortion and require her to listen to the fetal heartbeat if it is audible. Removes provisions allowing a pregnant woman to decline to view the fetal ultrasound imaging and hear the fetal heart tone.
Kentucky (R – New)
- HB2: Requires abortion providers to conduct an ultrasound on women seeking an abortion and then show or describe the image to them.
- SB 5: Bans abortion after 20 weeks.
Missouri (R – New)
Missouri has seen the biggest wave of abortion restrictions introduced early in the 2017 legislative session. This is not altogether a surprise; the state is the third-most restrictive for abortion in the country and has only one remaining abortion clinic left, according to Alison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.
- HB 537: Ban on dilation and extraction abortions (“Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act”)
- HB 112 and SB 1129: Establishes standards for a court to declare custody over an embryo.
- HB 565: Changes the requirements for reporting on abortions by providers to require information on how the abortion was performed and why.
- HB 194 and SB 67: Imposes TRAP requirements for abortion providers regarding the disposal of fetal remains and makes it illegal to donate fetal tissue for medical research.
- HB 252: Makes it a felony for a woman to take narcotics or a controlled substance (without a prescription) that could endanger the fetus if she is pregnant (or thinks she might be). Doing so would be a crime of “endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree,” punishable by up to four years in prison.
- HB 147: “Informed consent.” Abortion providers must give patients written materials saying that life begins at conception and photographs of the gestation stage, and provide the patient with options for how to dispose of fetal remains.
- HB 182: Makes it a felony for someone to transport a minor across state lines to get an abortion without parental consent.
- HB 326: Requires written consent from parent/guardian for a minor to obtain an abortion.
- HB 404: Requires abortion providers to show/describe ultrasound images of the heartbeat of the fetus to the woman before obtaining abortion.
- SB 96: Makes it a misdemeanor for doctors to perform abortions on women because of the sex, race, or Down Syndrome status of the fetus. (Pre-filed Dec. 1, 2016.)
- SB 196: Gives the attorney general jurisdiction to prosecute any violations of public funds going toward abortions or violations of any state law related to abortion.
- SB 230: “consent law”. Requires anyone seeking an abortion out of state to be provided with printed materials that show the image, gestation period and physical characteristics of the fetus. The materials also include the wording: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”
- HJR 18: Proposes a “personhood” constitutional amendment be placed on the Missouri ballot in 2018 that affirms life begins at conception and abortion be made illegal.
- HB 48: Requires abortion providers to obtain special licenses and doctors performing abortions to have surgical admitting privileges.
- HB 292: Creates an educational program in public schools that would “prohibit any effort to counsel that abortion can be used to prevent the birth of a baby.”
- L 59: Requires abortion providers to include information on their websites about the abortion procedure, images of fetuses at various points of gestation, and options for abortion alternatives.
Many of New Jersey’s anti-abortion laws were introduced last year and referred to committee and will be taken up by the Legislature this year. Lawmakers have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s victory and the expectation that anti-abortion measures will stand. Rep. Joseph Pennacchio, who introduced a 20-week ban last year, said at a press conference in December: “Make no mistake, when a legislator gets up, or Donald Trump gets up and starts talking about a child have [sic] a right to exist and not feel pain, that empowers all of us. We leave this room feeling a little stronger.”
- AB 1700: “Protection of Fetuses from Dismemberment Abortion Act.” Bans dilation and extraction abortions.
- AB 3452: “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” Bans abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization. (State legislators introduced this last year.)
- AB 3769: Requires abortion providers to issue a fetal death certificate after an abortion.
- ACR 89: Requires patients under 18 to notify a parent or guardian before obtaining an abortion.
- SB: 476: Requires physicians to provide patients the option of undergoing an ultrasound within 48 hours of performing abortion.
- SB 1352: “Post-Viability Protection Act:” bans abortion after fetus is viable or after 24 weeks. If abortion is performed after 20 weeks, the doctor must file a specific report.
- HB 37: Redefines what it means for a fetus to be “born alive” to include when a fetus is born with a discernible heartbeat. (Pre-filed Dec. 16, 2016.)
- HB 87: Bans abortions after 20 weeks, even if the fetus has a severe, irreversible abnormality.
- HB 201: Requires healthcare providers to bury or cremate remains of aborted or miscarried fetuses. This measure was proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission last summer, but a judge ordered an injunction before it could go into effect.
- SB 258: Abortion providers must offer the option of burial or cremation as a way of disposing of fetal remains.
- SJR 9: “Personhood” bill that guarantees the right to life for fetuses and makes abortion fully illegal “to the fullest extent authorized under federal constitutional law.”
- SB 415: Bans dilation and extraction abortions.
- SB 8: Bans so-called partial-birth abortions (late-term abortions, which are already illegal).
- HB 745: A package of various restrictions, including a mandatory waiting period, providing a patient with printed materials on the risks of abortion, conducting a sonogram of the fetus, and describing the image to the woman.
- SB 20: Prevents government health insurance from paying for abortions except when medically necessary (already a federal law).
- HB 1473: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Bans abortion after 20 weeks. (Pre-filed Dec. 12, 2016.)