Roundups Abortion

Legislative Lowlights: Texas GOP Finds New and Inventive Ways to Legalize LGBTQ Discrimination

Brie Shea

Meanwhile, Utah Republicans want to control how educators talk about contraception, and GOP legislators in Oklahoma continue to push the anti-choice myth of abortion "reversal."

Rewire.News tracks anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation as it works its way through state legislatures. Here’s an overview of the bills we’re watching.

Texas Republicans introduced a flurry of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ measures, 18-week abortion bans continue to advance in Arkansas and Utah, and “heartbeat” bans moved forward in Georgia and Tennessee.

Arkansas

The state senate public health committee approved a measure last week that would make it a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, to perform an abortion if a fetus has reached 18 weeks’ gestational age. Current state law prohibits abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation. The “Cherish Act”—which already passed the state house last month—includes exceptions for cases of medical emergency or pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

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In a 28-6 vote, the state senate passed the “Cherish Act.” Three Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans in passing the measure: state Sens. Eddie Cheatham (D-Crossett), Bruce Maloch (D-Magnolia), and Larry Teague (D-Nashville). The Republican-majority state house will need to agree to the state senate’s amendment allowing exceptions for rape and incest before the measure heads to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk.

The state senate on Thursday passed SB 3, which would require health-care providers to file a report within three days to the health department any time they diagnose or treat someone for a complication that may be the result of an abortion. Three Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 28-6 vote.

The measure is now pending in the state house public health, welfare, and labor committee.

In a 73-18 vote last Monday, the Arkansas House passed the “Perinatal Palliative Care Information Act,” which would amend existing informed consent requirements. The measure would require doctors to inform a pregnant patient who is carrying a fetus with a life-threatening anomaly and is seeking abortion care that perinatal palliative care services are available. State Rep. Chris Richey (D-West Helena) joined Republicans in passing the measure.

The bill is now pending in the state senate public health, welfare, and labor committee.

Georgia

In a 93-73 vote, the Georgia House of Representatives on Thursday passed HB 481, an omnibus abortion bill that would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected—effectively banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” includes exceptions for medical emergencies and pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

The LIFE Act would require any abortion performed after the first trimester to be performed in a licensed hospital, in a licensed ambulatory surgical center, or in a licensed abortion facility. Only a licensed physician would be able to perform an abortion. The measure contains a fetal “personhood” provision that would include embryos and fetuses in state population-based determinations. The LIFE Act is now pending in the state senate science and technology committee.

Indiana

The state house committee on public health last Wednesday approved SB 201, which would allow nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists to refuse to participate in an abortion—or prescribe abortion-inducing drugs—if doing so would be contrary to their religious or moral beliefs. Similar refusal measures are being considered in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas.

SB 201, which passed the state senate last month, is now pending in the full state house for debate.

Iowa

An Iowa Senate committee last week approved a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that it doesn’t secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion. The proposal is nearly identical to an amendment approved by voters last year in West Virginia. If the measure were to pass this year, the earliest the proposal could be on the ballot would be November 2020.

The proposal is now pending in the full state senate for debate.

State Rep. Jon Jacobsen (R-Council Bluffs) last Tuesday introduced a measure allowing a parent, guardian, or conservator to file a personal injury claim on behalf of a viable fetus. HF 621 would prohibit a court from adjudicating the issue of viability of a fetus without affording the fetus—through a parent, guardian, or conservator—due process and equal protection of the law. The measure could potentially allow a purported father to file a personal injury claim on behalf of a fetus against a doctor who performs an abortion. The “father” could also file a personal injury claim against a pregnant person over an abortion or alleged substance abuse.

The measure is now pending in the state house judiciary committee.

Michigan

State Sens. Curt Vanderwall (R-Ludington) and Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township) introduced measures to ban abortion after 20 weeks. Except when necessary to save the life of the pregnant person, SB 165/SB 166 would make it a felony—punishable by up to 15 years in prison—to perform an abortion once it’s been determined that the fetus has a probable post-fertilization age of 20 weeks or more. Seventeen states ban abortion at about 20 weeks post fertilization, according to Guttmacher.

The measures are now pending in the state senate health policy and human services committee.

Oklahoma

In a 39-8 vote last Tuesday, the Oklahoma Senate passed SB 614, which would require abortion providers to inform their patients that it might be possible to “reverse” the effects of a medication abortion. The bill, pending in the state house, would require doctors to give a pregnant person a written notice containing “reversal” information after administering the first dose of abortion-inducing drugs. Four states (Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah) require physicians to provide similar treatment information, which remains experimental and unproven.

Tennessee

In a 65-21 vote on Thursday, the Tennessee House of Representatives amended and passed HB 77, which would prohibit abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The Republican-backed measure would make it a felony to perform an abortion if a pregnancy is viable—which the bill defines as the “presence of an intrauterine fetus with a heartbeat.” Except in cases of medical emergency, a physician would be required to test to determine if a pregnancy is viable. The amended version doesn’t expressly require the use of an ultrasound to test for a heartbeat. Legislators in 14 states so far this year are considering “heartbeat” bans.

The measure—which is clearly unconstitutional—now heads to the state senate for consideration.

Texas

Republican lawmakers in Texas introduced dozens of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ measures last week in order to meet Friday’s filing deadline—which also happened to be International Women’s Day, so that’s nice. There were too many to really dive into individually, so here’s the CliffsNotes version.

First up, measures targeting reproductive rights:

HB 16 and SB 23 would require a physician to provide medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment to any child born alive after an abortion, an anti-choice myth used to restrict access to abortion. The state house version would make any violation a civil offense, while the state senate version would make it a civil and criminal offense.

HB 2350 and SB 2160 would trigger a statewide abortion ban if conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. HB 2350 would create a civil penalty for performing an abortion in Texas. SB 2160 is a companion bill to HB 1685, which was introduced last month, and would make performing an abortion a criminal offense.

HB 3071 would declare some information regarding abortion facilities—abortion complication reports, license applications, and clinic inspection reports—public information and open for disclosure.

HB 3107 would require hospitals and other health-care facilities to provide written notice to each physician, nurse, staff member, or employee that they have the right to object to participating in an abortion.

HB 3205 would make it a felony offense for a person to knowingly deliver or attempt to deliver a drug or device intended to be used to induce an unlawful abortion.

HB 3321 would require a physician to fill out an abortion complication report if they diagnose or treat such a complication that the physician knows or reasonably believes is the result of an abortion performed by another physician at a public health clinic, hospital, or other health-care facility.

HB 3605 would provide lawyers for fetuses. The measure would permit a court to appoint an attorney ad litem to represent a fetus or embryo should a pregnant minor wish to waive the state’s parental consent requirements by petitioning a local court. The measure is similar to a 2014 Alabama law that was later blocked in federal court.

HB 3873 would establish the Texas Alternatives to Abortion Program—a statewide network of service providers, including anti-choice pregnancy support centers, adoption assistance providers, and maternity homes. Created by state Republicans in 2005, the Alternatives to Abortion Program has provided millions to anti-choice clinics.

HB 4199 would prohibit wrongful birth lawsuits in Texas.

HB 4213 would require a physician who performs an abortion or prescribes an abortion-inducing drug to schedule a follow-up appointment for the patient within 14 days to confirm the pregnancy is completely terminated and assess any continued blood loss.

HB 4240/SB 24 would clarify when a physician needs to provide a copy of the informational materials developed by the state health department to a pregnant patient seeking an abortion in order to meet informed consent requirements.

HB 4407 would prohibit the state from contracting with vendors that perform abortions, conduct embryonic stem cell research, or conduct research on human fetal tissue.

HB 4463/SB 2243 would require a pregnant person to undergo counseling in addition to meeting with a physician to go over informed consent requirements prior to receiving abortion care.

HB 4526 and HB 4527 would create penalties for certain violations of state law regarding abortion. HB 4526 would only create civil penalties, while HB 4527 would create both civil and criminal penalties.

SB 22 would prohibit Texas from entering into a taxpayer resource transaction with an abortion provider or an affiliate of a provider. Prohibited transactions would include: a sale; purchase; lease, donation of money, goods, services, or real property; or any other transaction that provides the abortion provider or affiliate something of value from state or local tax revenue.

SB 906 would prohibit the governing body of any political subdivision from spending public money to directly or indirectly attempt to influence the outcome of pending legislation that may expand access to “elective abortions.”

SB 2145 would remove certain exceptions—unreported sexual assault or incest, a minor obtaining an abortion via judicial bypass, and a fetus with an irreversible medical condition or abnormality—to current Texas law requiring a pregnant person receive a verbal explanation of the results of sonogram images prior to receiving an abortion.

Next up, measures targeting LGBTQ rights:

SB 2369 would prohibit a court from considering evidence regarding whether a party seeking custody of a child demonstrates a history or pattern of acknowledging or declining to acknowledge the child’s gender identity or expression. The measure—a companion bill to HB 1910—would amend Texas law regarding investigations of child abuse or neglect to clarify that the term “abuse” does not include a person’s willingness or unwillingness to acknowledge a child’s gender identity or expression.

HB 2827/SB 17 are companion bills to SB 444, which was introduced earlier this year. The measures would allow people employed in over 65 licensed occupations to deny someone services based on their “sincerely held religious belief.” The measures clarify that a license holder may not refuse to provide a medical service that’s necessary to prevent death or imminent serious bodily injury.

HB 3172/SB 1978 would prohibit the state from taking any adverse action against a person for acting in accordance with a “sincerely held religious belief” or moral conviction—including beliefs or convictions regarding marriage. The measure would allow private businesses to use religion to legally refuse services to LGBTQ people in Texas.

HB 4357 would protect mental health workers in Texas from being subject to disciplinary action or civil liability for providing services or counseling based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The measure would effectively allow mental health providers to perform conversion therapy—a practice the Texas GOP has endorsed since 2014.

HB 4497 and HB 4512 would allow someone to refuse to solemnize a marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of a marriage if the action would cause the person to violate a “sincerely held religious belief.” The measures would allow a person to refuse to perform marriages, or provide venues, accommodations, cakes, etc., for same-sex couples.

And all of that was just from last week.

Utah

In a 27-0 vote on Friday, the state senate passed HB 71, which would clarify what type of health information can be taught in sex education courses. The measure would allow instruction to include information about the medical characteristics, effectiveness, and limitations of contraceptive methods or devices while prohibiting teachers from advocating or encouraging their use. The measure was amended while in the state senate and will need to be concurred in the state house before being sent to the governor’s desk.

Last Thursday, the state senate judiciary, law enforcement, and criminal justice committee approved HB 136, which would ban most abortions at 18 weeks’ gestation. Current state law allows abortion up until a fetus is viable outside of the womb. The measure—which passed the state house last month—includes exceptions for rape, incest, life of the pregnant person, and cases in which the fetus has a lethal defect or severe brain abnormality.

The bill is now pending in the full state senate.

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