Factbox: U.S. State Abortion Legislation to Watch in 2023
Reuters, May 24, 2023
State legislatures are wrestling with how much to restrict or expand abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Here is a snapshot of pending and passed legislation seeking to restrict or protect access in 2023. RESTRICTIONS. FLORIDA: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in April signed a six-week abortion ban, which includes exceptions for rape, incest, human trafficking and the life and health of the mother. It cannot take effect until the state Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the 15-week ban that is currently in place. IDAHO: Idaho Governor Brad Little signed into law a bill in April that makes it illegal to help a minor cross state lines to get an abortion without the permission of a parent or guardian. Offenders would face two to five years in prison. The Republican-led state is currently enforcing a near-total abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. MONTANA: Montana Governor Greg Gianforte in May signed into law several bills limiting abortion access, including one that aims to overturn a 1999 state Supreme Court ruling that found the state constitution protected a right to abortion. Another new law bans most second trimester abortions by prohibiting a common surgical procedure. Planned Parenthood has asked a state judge to temporarily block the measure. NEBRASKA: Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen on Monday signed into law a bill restricting gender-affirming care for minors that was amended to also prohibit abortions for pregnancies beyond 12 weeks. Abortion was formerly legal in the state up to 22 weeks. The same law also bans “gender-altering surgery” and places restrictions on hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs for transgender people under 19. NORTH CAROLINA: Republican lawmakers in May overrode Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto to enact a law limiting most abortions to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest, life-limiting fetal anomalies and the life of the mother.
Senate Democrats Write to Google Over Concerns About Abortion-Seekers’ Location Data
CNN, May 24, 2023
Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to Google this week with questions about how it deletes users’ location history when they have visited sensitive locations such as abortion clinics, expressing concerns that the company may not have been consistently deleting the data as promised. The letter dated Monday and led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono seeks answers from Google about the types of locations Google considers to be sensitive and how long it takes for the company to automatically delete visit history. The letter comes after tests performed by The Washington Post and other privacy advocates appeared to show that Google was not quickly or consistently deleting users’ recorded visits to fertility centers of Planned Parenthood clinics. “This data is extremely personal and includes information about reproductive health care,” the senators wrote. “We are also concerned that it can be used to target advertisements for services that may be unnecessary or potentially harmful physically, psychologically, or emotionally.” Concerns about the security of location data have spiked in Washington since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, opening the door to state laws restricting or penalizing abortion-seekers. Under those laws, privacy advocates have said, states could potentially compel tech companies to hand over location data that might reveal whether a person has illegally sought an abortion. “Claiming and publicly announcing that Google will delete sensitive location data, without consistently doing so, could be considered a deceptive practice,” the senators added, implying that Google’s conduct could be grounds for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which is authorized to police unfair and deceptive business practices. Google declined to comment Wednesday on the lawmakers’ letter, instead referring CNN to a blog post that answers some but not all of the senators’ questions.
More Women Sue Texas Saying the State’s Anti-Abortion Laws Harmed Them
NPR, May 22, 2023
Eight more women are joining a lawsuit against the state of Texas, saying the state’s abortion bans put their health or lives at risk while facing pregnancy-related medical emergencies. The new plaintiffs have added their names to a lawsuit originally filed in March by five women and two doctors who say that pregnant patients are being denied abortions under Texas law despite facing serious medical complications. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the women, is now asking for a temporary injunction to block Texas abortion bans in the event of pregnancy complications. “What happened to these women is indefensible and is happening to countless pregnant people across the state,” Molly Duane, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. The new group of women brings the total number of plaintiffs to 15. The lawsuit, filed in state court in Austin, asks a judge to clarify the meaning of medical exceptions in the state’s anti-abortion statutes. The Texas “trigger law,” passed in 2021 in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, makes performing an abortion a felony, with exceptions for a “life-threatening physical condition” or “a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” Another Texas law, known as S.B. 8, prohibits nearly all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. That ban, with a novel enforcement mechanism that relies on private citizens filing civil lawsuits against anyone believed to be involved in providing prohibited abortions, took effect in September 2021 after the Supreme Court turned back a challenge from a Texas abortion provider. In an interview with NPR in April, Jonathan Mitchell, a lawyer who assisted Texas lawmakers in crafting the language behind S.B. 8, said he believed the medical exceptions in the law should not have prohibited emergency abortions.
Colleges Face New Responsibilities As States Require Abortion Medication Access On Campus
Higher Ed Dive, May 23, 2023
Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade nearly one year ago, access to abortion on college campuses has taken on heightened importance. In the aftermath, some states are mandating that public colleges provide students with access to medication that ends pregnancy. In August, New York will join California and Massachusetts in requiring certain public colleges to provide abortion medication to students. “Young people are always on the front lines of attacks on bodily autonomy,” said Niharika Rao, a senior at Barnard College who has been campaigning for the law through advocacy groups. These laws highlight some of the new responsibilities colleges are undertaking to broaden abortion access following the landmark court ruling. And some research suggests that these kinds of policies may influence where students ultimately decide to enroll. Rao said the Supreme Court’s decision last year has affected New York, even though abortion remains legal in the state. Increased demand from residents of states where abortion is now inaccessible, as well as protesters at abortion clinics, have put up more hurdles for students. “All of those barriers, including longer wait times and increased pressure on our abortion funds, really meant that we were looking to increase the access points for abortion itself across the state,” said Rao, who is an organizer with the nonprofit Advocates for Youth. The New York law may not be the only thing encouraging colleges to step into the new role. Even though Barnard is a private college, it announced in October it would be providing abortion pills after organized activism from students, including Rao. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of California, Berkeley, among other public colleges, chose to provide the pills before required by law. “The campus administration heard from students that they want access to medication abortion,” a spokesperson for UMass Amherst said via email. “The goal has been to provide improved access to this medication and related health services provided by the university’s medical staff, and the result has been an increase in their use by students.”
North Carolina’s Abortion Law May Make Traveling to End a Pregnancy Impossible for Some in the South
NBC News, May 20, 2023
As lawmakers in North and South Carolina work to impose new restrictions on abortion, options for women seeking to end a pregnancy in the South are diminishing quickly. In North Carolina, a ban on abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy goes into effect on July 1. Gov. Roy Cooper had vetoed the legislation, but the state’s Republican-led Assembly voted Tuesday to override that veto. Also on Tuesday, the South Carolina House of Representatives approved a six-week abortion ban, which now advances to the state Senate. And last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would ban most abortions after six weeks. The law will take effect if Florida’s Supreme Court upholds its current 15-week ban in an ongoing legal challenge. “We’re going to see many people forced to continue pregnancies against their will,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates two abortion clinics in Virginia, along with clinics in Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and New Mexico. Miller said she was bracing for more women who are seeking abortions to travel to Virginia, which will likely soon be the last Southern state without abortion restrictions. North Carolina’s ban makes exceptions for rape, incest and “life-limiting” fetal anomalies. Proponents of the legislation argue that it offers a compromise on abortion. “The things in this bill are not obstacles to abortion. They’re safeguards. We seek to balance protecting unborn babies while ensuring the safe care of mothers,” North Carolina House Speaker Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens said in floor remarks Tuesday night. Even before North Carolina’s 12-week ban passed, Miller said her Virginia clinics were seeing patients from across the South. Since January, her call center has received more than 6,000 phone calls from people out of state seeking care in Virginia, she said.
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