Repro-Briefs: Montana Agenda Could Make it Most Anti-Choice State in Country, and Other State News

Robin Marty

From the mountains, through the heartland, and all the way to Guam, new abortion restrictions are being announced as the country prepares for the 2011 legislative session.

After devastating election losses across the country, we knew the 2011 legislative sessions would be a blow to reproductive rights. But news of legislative agendas have shown that in many states and territories, the situation may be more dire than originally thought.

In response to plans by Nebraska Dr. Leroy Carhart to open a clinic just across the river, anti-choice members in the Iowa state legislature are now pushing for a 20-week abortion ban that would replicate the one passed last year in Nebraska.

Via the Des Moines Register:

Key Iowa Republicans are drafting legislation mirroring a new, more restrictive Nebraska abortion law in an attempt to derail plans of a Nebraska doctor to open a Council Bluffs clinic where late-term abortions would be performed.

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A new law took effect Oct. 15 in Nebraska that bans abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, or roughly five months, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

The law led Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a Nebraska abortion provider, to announce last month that he plans to open the Iowa clinic.

Iowa law prohibits abortions after the sixth month of pregnancy unless the woman’s doctor believes the procedure is needed to “preserve the life or health” of the woman.

House Republican leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he is aware that his members are putting together a bill that would mimic Nebraska’s law. House Republicans generally agree on the concept, and such a bill is likely to get close consideration, he said.

[Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, a board member of Iowa Right to Life] is working with several Council Bluffs-area Republicans on the bill. Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said he will help House Republicans in any way he can to see that the bill advances.

Democrats still hold a small margin in the Iowa legislature, which may be enough to block the likely bill.

Meanwhile, Nebraska is taking one more step to remove reproductive access for women by banning abortion coverage in the healthcare insurance pool created by healthcare reform.  But one state senator is trying to allow an exception for a mother’s health, and Nebraska Right to Life is not happy.

From the Omaha World Herald:

[Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton] said her proposal, to be introduced in 2011, would preclude state and federal dollars from being used for abortion services, unless the procedure is necessary for the health and safety of the mother.

Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said that sounds like a health exception her organization could not support. She said her organization has been working with another state senator to introduce a bill on behalf of Right to Life and was not aware of Dubas’ proposal until Tuesday.

Competing bills would set up the state for another abortion rights battle when the session begins Jan. 5.

In Montana, the Republican Party is planning a slate of reproductive rights bills that could even go as far as to ban abortion in the state all together.  From personhood to ultrasounds to extra protections for clinic protests, if all bills passed Montana would become the most anti-choice state in the country.

Via the Missoulian:

So far, Republican lawmakers have asked for these bills to be drafted:

Rep. Keith Regier of Kalispell, to criminalize the death of an unborn child.

Sen. Jim Shockley of Victor, to require girls younger than 16 to get parental permission to have an abortion.

Rep. Wendy Warburton of Havre, to amend the state Constitution to define a person by declaring that human life begins when an egg is fertilized.

Rep.-elect Alan Hale of Basin, to revise health laws regarding abortion.

Rep. Cary Smith of Billings, to regulate family planning and abortion clinics.

Rep. Pat Ingraham of Thompson Falls, to require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion.

Sen. Jeff Essmann of Billings, to create the crime of obstructing a protest at a health care facility.

Rep. Mike More of Gallatin Gateway, to provide abortion screening to prevent provider negligence and patient coercion.

If Warburton’s proposed constitutional amendment gets at least 100 combined votes from senators and representatives, it will go directly to the November 2012 ballot, to be decided by Montana voters.

Montana women’- sole hope?  A constant barrage of vetoes from the governor’s desk, as Gov. Brian Schweitzer has said healthcare should be between a woman and her doctor.

One thing Montana isn’t trying?  A new bill for a mandatory waiting period for an abortion, since their current one is blocked by the courts.   However, the U.S. territory of Guam has introduced a 24 hour wait, and now the lawmaker who sponsored it wants to take it back. Not because he thinks it’s now a bad idea, but because he’s mad that too much non-anti-choice language made it into the informed consent material. writes:

Originally the bill required women be informed of the gestational age, anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus, as well as of the medical assistance benefits for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care. The woman also would have to be provided with printed materials and an informational video describing the “unborn child,” and listing agencies that offer alternatives to abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The amended bill requires the name of the physician who will perform the abortion, the medical risks associated with carrying the child to term, the need for anti-Rh immune globulin therapy, and the consequences of refusing the therapy.

“During the discussion on this measure, I made a number of amendments that would have restored bill No. 54-30 to its original form,” [Current Senator and Gov-elect Eddie] Calvo said yesterday in a statement .

“Almost all of these amendments failed to get the support of my colleagues in the Legislature. I voted for the measure strictly on principle, in hopes any wait period would save the lives of unborn children.”

Calvo said that “after further review of the bill in its final form, I realized this potential law may encourage abortions. … This one-sided presentation no longer protects Guam’s future children. I agree with the sentiments of our local pro-life groups, and am committed to doing everything I can as a senator and incoming governor to save the lives of babies.”

Tim Rohr, a member of the Esperansa Project, a Guam-based anti-abortion group, said the organization had expressed its concerns to Republican Sen. Frank Blas, Jr. about the bill, but had not reached out to Calvo.”We are concerned that the language was significantly changed and that it does not reflect the intent of the original bill,” he said. “The intent of the original bill was to advise women as to the risks of the abortion. The only risk that the women is being advised of is giving birth to the child.”

Calvo has promised that if the bill is vetoed, once he is governor he will allow the right kind of informed consent bill through — one that only provides information encouraging women to give birth.

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