2007 State Legislative Trends

Rachel Gold and Elizabeth Nash

With the legislative year in full swing in most states, some interesting trends are emerging—many aimed either at banning abortion, or alternately, protecting abortion rights.

Editor's note: This post was coauthored by Rachel Benson Gold & Elizabeth Nash. Rachel Benson Gold is the Guttmacher Institute's Director of Policy Analysis and Elizabeth Nash holds the position of Public Policy Associate. Both work in the Institute's Washington-based Public Policy Division.

With the legislative year in full swing in most states, some interesting trends are emerging. Even before the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act"—widely regarded as demonstrating the fragility of the basic abortion right guaranteed in Roe v. Wade—legislators in several states had taken at least preliminary steps toward enacting state legislation aimed either at banning abortion or, alternatively, protecting abortion rights.

By the end of the first quarter, 24 abortion ban bills had been introduced in 16 states; Mississippi, however, was the only state to enact a law, a measure that would ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Comparable legislation was defeated in Utah, however, as were immediate abortion bans—blatantly unconstitutional measures aimed at forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe—in Mississippi and South Dakota. Abortion bans remain under active consideration in nine additional states, although only one of these, a North Dakota bill, has been approved by at least one legislative chamber. Meanwhile, legislators in Rhode Island have introduced two measures aimed at protecting a woman's right to abortion, which are similar to laws in place in seven other states.

Whether interest in legislation to either ban abortion or to protect abortion rights intensifies in the wake of the Court's ruling on the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act remains to be seen. More likely, given that the Court upheld that law even though it did not contain a health exception, its action will prompt attempts by antiabortion state lawmakers to enact (or reenact) a variety of state restrictions on abortion access that also do not have health exceptions. Also likely are new antiabortion "informed consent" proposals designed to give women more, and more detailed, information about fetal development and the abortion procedure they are about to undergo.

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So far this year, however, the major abortion-related issue to receive extensive attention at the state level is that of minors' access. By the end of the first quarter, legislators in 23 states had introduced 50 bills related to parental notice or consent. One new parental consent law has been enacted, in Idaho. With passage of this law, which replaces an existing state law that has not been in effect because of a court order, 22 states now require parental consent, 11 require parental notice, and two require both notice and consent before a minor may obtain an abortion. At the moment, all of these laws have a health exception.

Another measure that has received much attention seeks to safeguard minors' access by blocking implementation of New Hampshire's long-enjoined parental notice requirement. Last year, in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the lower court to issue a final ruling on the law, which could clear the way for it to be implemented. In an attempt to forestall that possibility, prochoice legislators in the state, supported by New Hampshire's new governor, have moved to repeal the underlying law; the repeal bill was approved by the House in March.

Beyond the abortion issue, the issue of HPV vaccination for middle school students has been a major concern among legislators this year. By the end of the first quarter, 42 bills had been introduced in 26 states and Washington, DC, that would include HPV on the list of vaccines necessary for school attendance.

As resistance to such a mandate has grown around the country, the only policy change approved by the end of the first quarter came through an executive order issued by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). Following the governor's action, momentum has mounted to overturn that decision, with a measure to do that racing through the legislature with seemingly veto-proof support and a separate lawsuit seeking to block the rule filed by parents of elementary school students in the state. In early April, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) vetoed an HPV mandate, while Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) signed what may well be the nation's first HPV mandate to actually go into effect.

For more information on:

  • Major state legislative actions so far this year, click here.
  • Legislation enacted in 2007, click here.
  • The status of state law and policy on key reproductive health and rights issues, click here.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

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