Changing Landscape of Abortion Rights: 4 States Tighten Restrictions

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Abortion hasn’t been as much in the news or in politics recently, but it’s still a front where legislative war is being waged. FiveThirtyEight offers a series of maps breaking down the diversity of laws in the U.S. when it comes to abortion. For example, 23 states require 24 hours wait time between mandated counseling and abortions, while until this week only two required 72 hours wait, one for 48 hours, one for 18, and three outlawing the wait time. Mandated counseling requires individuals to be notified of fetal pain in 12 states, negative mental health in 7, and breast cancer risks in five. Basically, what is made clear is the diversity of abortion law within the United States. Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t still states and political interests that would like to see more restrictive measures in place — as the last few months have proven. Here’s a look at four states that have recently taken steps to tighten abortion policy and what it means for residents.

1. Missouri

Missouri passed the most recent abortion restriction on Wednesday night with a vote of 111 to 39 in the state House. The new law added Missouri as the third state in the U.S. requiring women to wait 72 hours after their first appointment before they can schedule an abortion. Only South Dakota and Utah have a waiting period of three days. The law holds true for all women, apart from those whose lives are threatened by the pregnancy. This includes victims of rape and incest.

The sponsor of the bill, state representative Kevin Elmer (R), justified the decision, saying that, “This is a tragic occurrence — rape, incest — and there’s a pregnancy that occurs form it. And I would never say, oh, that’s a great situation,” according to USA Today. “But this is what gets down to the heart of it. The crux of it is for me when does life begin, and how do you value it? For me, even though that tragic situation may occur, I still believe that God is at work in this world and that he’ll let bad things happen and he doesn’t cause it,” he said.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Mississippi

This summer Mississippi’s newest anti-abortion laws will take effect, disallowing women from abortions after 20 weeks, with the time period being counted from the end of their most recent menstrual cycle as opposed to after fertilization. Mississippi is hardly the only state to have such requirements. Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, and a few others hold the same policy, according to FiveThirtyEight. Mississippi is more unusual and more controversial in that it maintains this policy regardless of whether or not the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. Senator Derrick Simmons (D-Greenville) attempted to amend the legislation before it was passed to that effect, but was shot down. As it stands now, allowances are made only for an endangered mother or in the case of certain death of the fetus.

The twenty week mark is likely because that’s when the National Right to Life and Doctors on Fetal Pain place the fetus’ ability to feel pain begins. The Journal of the American Medical Association places it between 23 and 30 weeks of gestation and earlier. “That’s a totally irrelevant piece of legislation that I’m sure was aimed at the clinic. The clinic goes to 16 weeks, so what difference does that bill make? They have been posturing and wasting taxpayers’ money for the last month on that piece of legislation, and every legislator there knows that,” said Diane Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization — Mississippi’s only abortion clinic — to The Jackson Free Press. What unquestionably would have effected not only Derzis’ clinic but any future clinics to open in the state, was ballot Initiative 41. The initiative missed a deadline Wednesday, but would have sought to define life as beginning at conception.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Louisiana

Louisiana’s newest restrictive abortion measure passed the state senate on Wednesday with a 34 to 3 vote in favor. While the bill still needs to pass the state, House and Governor Bobby Jindal said there are no expected hesitations from either. The bill requires that an abortion be preformed only if the physician is within 30 miles of a hospital where it has admitting privileges. This goes for medications that induce abortion as well as surgical abortions.

Since this is limiting for certain doctors who may not be conveniently located so close to a hospital, Senator J.P. Morrell attempted to have the legislation altered to only require that it have admitting privileges, regardless of the distance. “It is arbitrary,” he said, according to The Times Picayune. “There are large parts of the state where there are no hospitals for hundreds of miles.” The amendment’s rejection mirrored the state senate’s passage at 3 to 34.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Arizona

Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill in early April that would allow for surprise inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant. For supporters of the bill, her decision allows for careful monitoring of conditions by the Department of Health Services and for the protection of women’s health. For opponents, it’s an attempt to harass women and abortion rights proponents. According to Reuters, a similar law was passed allowing surprise inspections in 1999 until the federal appeals court struck it down as unconstitutional, but those who passed the bill would argue that Arizona’s abortion regulations have increased in the last four years and as a result, the situation has changed.

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