ObamaCare Sparks Rash of Pro-Life Legislation in States

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In an article appearing on the liberal Center for American Progress website, abortion proponents lay out a long and impressive list of the amount of pro-life legislation that has been introduced in states as a result of the passage of ObamaCare.

“In some ways, this year is no different than any other—abortion opponents have once again introduced a multitude of bills to restrict abortion,” writes Jessica Aarons and Alex Cawthorne of the Women’s Health & Rights Program at the Center for American Progress. “But what has changed is that, on the heels of the fight over abortion in federal health insurance reform legislation, antiabortion activists have gained renewed momentum.”

This renewed momentum began with a loophole in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act that allows states to opt out of all abortion coverage in state insurance “exchanges.

The option “all but invites states to ban coverage of abortion in private health insurance plans by ‘opting out’ of abortion coverage in the state health insurance exchanges that must be established by 2014,” Aarons and Cawthorne bemoan.

They have good reason to be concerned. A day after Congress passed ObamaCare, a major pro-life legal group, Americans United for Life, created model legislation that states could use to opt out of abortion coverage in theier exchanges. Thus far, 29 states have chosen to do so and have legislation already pending for the 2010 or 2011 legislative sessions.

“The sponsors of these bills claim that their legislation only restricts public funding of abortion care,” Aarons and Cawthorne say. “But closer inspection reveals that these bills mimic the infamous Stupak Amendment, which abortion-rights proponents fought so hard to beat back in federal legislation, and will broadly limit private coverage of abortion in the states where these bills are enacted.”

But it doesn’t stop there. The renewed momentum in the pro-life movement has led to passage of many bills that were previously stalled in legislatures throughout the country. So far this year, nine states have enacted new abortion-related restrictions: Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

There has also been an increase in the number of states that have introduced legislation that will require abortion providers to offer their patients an ultrasound. Thus far, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia have passed these bills.

A number of states are planning to introduce legislation or ballot initiatives this year to amend the state constitution to establish that legal personhood begins at conception, which would limit access to abortion, contraception, fertility treatments, and other medical services.

Several states have introduced bills this year that would criminalize abortions done for the purposes of sex-selection. A bill of this kind has already become law in Oklahoma.

The number of states that have introduced Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, which would require abortion clinics to meet the safety and health standards of other outpatient medical centers, has also increased.

Aarons and Cawthorne are also dismayed by the number of pro-life bills that have passed in Oklahoma only because the legislature was able to overturn vetoes by the pro-abortion governor. These bills include laws outlawing “sex selection” abortion, allowing employees to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience, and increased restrictions on the dangerous RU486 “abortion pill.”

There has also been an increase in the number of bills introduced this year that ban abortion before viability. Nebraska banned abortion for almost any reason after 20 weeks gestation based on studies that say  fetuses can feel pain at that point, a fact Aarons and Cawthorne dispute.

Utah has even enacted a bill that defines criminal homicide to include a “knowing” act by a pregnant woman that causes a miscarriage or stillbirth. “This bill is so broad that it could apply to a woman who smokes cigarettes or takes prescription medication,” the authors claim.

They conclude by calling upon states to pay attention to more important things such as the economy, expanding access to health care, spurring job growth, and reducing housing foreclosures.

“Instead, they have chosen to waste valuable time and resources by passing laws of questionable constitutionality that punish women and make difficult circumstances even harder,” the accuse. “It is time for states to get their priorities straight, stop using abortion as a political distraction, and start addressing the pressing needs of everyday Americans.”

Fortunately, the pro-life majority in America has a different point-of-view, and has chosen to make the best of a bad health care reform bill that 58 percent of Americans believe should be repealed.

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