Abortion Across America: States Re-Examine Laws

Last month's Supreme Court decision to uphold a ban on the so-called partial birth abortion procedure, which President Bush signed into law in 2003, has sparked a flurry of state legislation on the issue. But states started stepping up the debate even before the ruling from the nation's highest court was handed down.

So far this year 23 bills have been introduced in 15 states attempting to restrict access to abortion. These are largely bills requiring ultrasound or counseling prior to having an abortion. Idaho and Mississippi have been added to seven other states that require an ultrasound -- and must give the patient the option of viewing it -- prior to an abortion.

In the weeks since the Supreme Court upheld the "partial birth" abortion ban, state lawmakers have pushed for more restrictive anti-abortion legislation in Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. And states like Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas are considering new legislation as well.

New York and Rhode Island are both moving on new bills to strengthen access to abortion. Seven states -- California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington -- have passed versions of the Freedom of Choice Act in previous years, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights activist group.

Here's a breakdown:

Michigan legislators have introduced a number of bills to restrict abortion since the court decision, as have legislators in North Carolina where a bill requiring an ultrasound before providing an abortion is waiting for approval.

On April 20, the Georgia legislature passed a measure requiring abortion providers to offer women the opportunity to see the fetus in an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion. This bill is waiting for the governor to sign it.

On April 23, the North Dakota state legislature backed a ban on most abortions that will take effect only if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade. Doctors who are found guilty of performing an abortion could be fined and jailed for up to five years.

Abortion Rights Legislation

Some states, like New York and Rhode Island, are moving legislation to protect abortion rights. A little more than a week after the Supreme Court's decision, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, introduced the legislation called the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act which would update the state's law to establish a fundamental right to privacy. Rhode Island has two bills pending; neither bill has passed a single chamber.

Outright Bans

Two states, Alabama and Missouri, have introduced legislation to ban abortions outright -- moves designed to challenge the constitutionality of Roe vs. Wade.

Criminalize Abortion (if Roe vs. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court)

Three states, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Texas have bills in the works to make abortions illegal if Roe vs. Wade should be overturned. Mississippi has already enacted this legislation.

Source: Planned Parenthood and Guttmacher Institute

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