Repro-Briefs: The Lesser-Noticed Abortion Battles

Robin Marty

Wisconsin still can't get emergency contraception to rape victims, Florida tries to get judges to tell pregnant teenagers they should give their babies up for adoption and more stories that went under the radar.

Mandatory ultrasounds, fetal pain bills, and ridiculous waiting periods.  We watched a lot of anti-choice legislation get passed in the 2010 session, but here are a few losses and victories that may have been missed among the more headline-grabbing fights for reproductive choice.

North Dakota

It’s been a while since the Dakotas have had a ballot measure to get them fired up against abortion.  That appears to be the plan with the recently introduced “Skull Crushing and Decapitation Ban Act.”  The ban is an effort to save a “living unborn child,” according to the initiative petition, and has such wonderfully vague language as:

1. “Decapitation” means serious bodily injury in which a person uses any instrument or procedure to grasp the skull or neck of a living unborn child for the purpose of separating the skull from the neck

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.


2. “Skull Crushing” means seriously bodily injury in which a person uses any instrument or procedure to grasp the skull of a living unborn child for the purpose of compressing or collapsing the skull in a life-endangering manner.

that it could likely be applied to almost any procedure that isn’t a medical abortion.

The Secretary of State approved the proposed petition, which now needs approximately 13,000 valid local registered voter signatures to make it onto the ballot.


Although Wisconsin has some terrific programs in place like Compassionate Care and now the Healthy Youth Initiative, getting them implemented properly can still be a problem.  Compassionate Care, a program to ensure victims of sexual assault have access to emergency contraception, was passed two years ago, but it appears some hospitals still aren’t getting with the program, according to the Wisconsin Radio Network.

Emergency contraception is still not available at all Wisconsin hospitals, according to a new survey. Two years after Compassionate Care for Rape Victims became law, a survey by the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health finds twenty-two percent of state hospitals are not complying.

“We weren’t totally surprised that many hospitals were lacking resources they needed, to truly comply with the law,” says the Alliance’s Sara Finger. “It just goes to show that there’s more work to be done, to educate and empower hospitals.”

Sara Finger with the Alliance says they’re distributing a comprehensive compliance tool kit to every emergency room and sexual assault nurse examiner in the state to help overcome a lack of resources. Other hospitals continue to object to the law, citing “provider beliefs.” Finger says that’s a matter for education. “The AMA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, the AMA, all agree that emergency contraception is the standard of care to provide a rape victim in preventing a pregnancy from her attacker.”

South Carolina

Still, we do get to find some small victories here and there.  In South Carolina, an attempt to pass a personhood amendment via bureaucratic hocus pocus after it had been stalled in the legislature got completely shut down, with even Republican leaders chastising the maneuvering.

The Senate put turned back a bid Tuesday to bring anti-abortion legislation to debate on the Senate floor – an effort by an Upstate Republican to bypass stalled hearings at both the subcommittee and full committee levels.

The action, led by Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, stalled Senate business, delaying final passage of a cigarette tax increase to 50 cents a pack.

Bright, who has emerged as the Senate’s most vocal opponent of abortion rights, tried to force a vote on bypassing the committee hearings.

“This is one of those gotcha votes,” McConnell protested. “You’re for abortion or you’re against it.”

Bright said he took the step because his bill, S450, which seeks to establish fetal personhood, was introduced in February 2009 but had not yet come up for debate.

“Never debating the cause – I don’t see how that helps,” Bright said.

An irritated Senate president pro-tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, blasted the move, however, which he said not only breaks Senate procedure, but also would wind up costing the state money.

“It is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution,” said McConnell, an attorney. “Let me tell you what he is trying to push on us: This bill would make a doctor guilty of manslaughter or murder if it goes forward.”

McConnell, who described himself as “pro-life,” scolded Bright for attempting to change U.S. law established by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, by passing a conflicting state law.

McConnell also blasted Bright for attempting to force senators either to support that effort or look as if they favor abortions.


Much attention is still on Florida for passing a new restrictive mandatory ultrasound bill.  But one thing that went mostly unnoticed was a push for more onerous rules around judicial bypass for parental consent, including only being able to go to your local judge, a higher level of evidence to prove the teen is “mature enough” and host of waiting roadblocks intended to, among other things, delay the teen until she is too pregnant to obtain the abortion itself or force her to have a more invasive procedure.

The best part?  This add on measure from the committee:

The House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Committee added a measure to mandate a judge determine whether a minor is aware of the “shortage of unborn babies available for adoption.” It passed 11-4, but defied party lines with a moderate Republican and a Catholic Democrat switching sides.

Happily, the Florida senate killed the proposed new regulations.

A controversial bill to expand parental notification for abortion appears dead this session after the Senate Health Regulation Committee failed to consider the measure Monday. It is still moving in the House, so critics are careful not to celebrate yet.

But it’s the legislation’s supporters who are throwing in the towel — and blaming bill sponsor Sen. Andy Gardiner.

In an e-mail titled “UNBELIEVABLE,” the Christian Family Coalition said Gardiner “ran out on his bill” and “lost all credibility” with supporters. He left the room before it was considered and asked committee Chairman Don Gaetz to postpone it. The committee won’t meet again this session.

“This is the biggest act of COWARDICE that I have seen a public official display in all of my years in statewide politics, he didn’t even have the decency to stay in the committee hearing room and postpone his own bill,” said Anthony Verdugo, the founder of Christian Family Coalition in a statement. “Someone needs to get the message to Gardiner that politics is a contact sport and NOT for the faint at heart!”

Not for the faint of heart, sure. But it’s nice to see some politicians remembering to have a heart at all.

Load More

Enjoy reading Rewire? Sign up for our email list to receive exclusive news and reporting.

Thank you for reading Rewire!