Abortion Moves To The States: Conservatives From Virginia To Missouri Use Reform To Restict Access

Health care reform has shifted the abortion debate to the states, where conservative lawmakers are using the law’s opt-out language as an opportunity to prohibit insurers from offering abortion coverage in the new exchanges, but also severely restrict women’s ability to purchase abortion services with private dollars. Tennessee became the first state to pass legislation stripping abortion coverage from the new exchanges and Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and now Louisiana are not far behind.

Last week, the Louisiana House passed a bill by a vote of 76–13 which “Prohibits all health insurance issuers from including abortion in any health care coverage available in the state,” while insisting that the law is still unconstitutional. “Nothing in this Act shall be construed or implied to recognize any independent right to abortion under the constitution or laws of this state, nor shall it be construed or implied to recognize the constitutional validity of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, P.L. 111–148,” the bill states.

But conservative lawmakers are not simply opting their states out of providing abortion coverage in the exchanges, they’re taking advantage of the renewed debate to pass other pet restrictions. “At least 22 U.S. state legislatures are seeking new ways to restrict abortions.” They include:

OKLAHOMA: Gov. Brad Henry (D) vetoed two separate abortion measures. One would have “required women seeking abortions early in their pregnancies to undergo an invasive form of ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having the procedures,” while the other would have banned wrongful birth lawsuits.


NORTH DAKOTA: “A North Dakota grassroots pro-life organization is announcing the official beginning of an effort to circulate petitions for an initiated measure that would prohibit physicians from decapitating and crushing the skulls of living unborn children.”

KANSAS: Doctors must give a medical diagnosis justifying late-term abortions under a new bill, which was vetoed by the governor April 15. An override attempt is expected.

UTAH: “A new law makes self-induced abortion a homicide. It was prompted by a girl who paid a man $150 to beat her to try to induce a miscarriage.”

MISSOURI: The state Senate passed a bill requiring the physician to provide materials “detailing the risks of an abortion and the physiological characteristics of an unborn child at two-week gestational increments” at least 24 hours prior to an abortion. The bill also requires women to be informed about fetus’ possible ability to feel pain. It now moves to the state House.

NEBRASKA: Governor Dave Heineman (R) signed legislation “banning most abortions 20 weeks after conception or later.” Another measure discourages providers from offering abortion by allowing women to sue doctors that don’t follow a meticulous pre-abortion review process.

VIRGINIA: “On a 20 to 19 vote, the Democratic-led Senate agreed to an amendment proposed by McDonnell (R) that would limit state funding for abortions to those performed in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.”

Jessica Arons says that all of this is “a predictable outcome of the Nelson language in the health reform bill.” “It reignited the abortion wars in the states.” “Nelson opened the door for them to legislate away private insurance coverage of abortion and the states are walking right through. This is no longer about public funding for abortion (and in fact, it never really was); this is about making abortion impossible to obtain for women of all means.”