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Ark., Ariz., Fla., Idaho, Mo., Mont., Ohio, Okla., Va. Lawmakers Address Abortion Legislation

Ark., Ariz., Fla., Idaho, Mo., Mont., Ohio, Okla., Va. Lawmakers Address Abortion Legislation

April 7, 2011 — The following summarizes recent action on state legislation addressing abortion.

~ Arkansas: Gov. Mike Beebe (D) on Tuesday signed into a law a measure (HB 1855) that requires health care facilities to be licensed by the state Health Department if they provide medication abortion to at least 10 women per month, the AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. Clinic operators say the bill will require clinics to add procedure and recovery rooms that are not needed in facilities that do not perform surgeries. Murry Newbern, director of community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, said the bill sends the message that the two clinics in the state that provide medication abortions -- located in Fayetteville and Little Rock -- are not regulated. She said the clinics are "regulated like any other health care facility," adding, "Our physicians and nurses abide by the state Medical Practices Act." The Health Department will develop the specific regulations for the clinics, according to department spokesperson Ed Barham. The department's Facilities Licensing Service will draft the rules by the end of the year, but Barham said it is too early to say how the regulations will affect the clinics (Bartels, AP/Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 4/5).

~ Arizona: The Arizona Senate on Tuesday voted 21-7 to approve a bill (HB 2384) that would forbid the use of any state or federal funds, as well as tuition and fees, to train medical professionals to provide abortion services, the East Valley Tribune reports. The measure, which now moves to the governor's desk, also denies state tax deductions for donations made to organizations that offer abortion care or that refer clients to places that do. According to Steven Goldschmid, a physician and dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon, the "proposed legislation will certainly jeopardize the accreditation of our obstetrics-gynecology residency program." Kevin Burns -- CEO of UA Healthcare, the company that runs the university's medical center -- said, "I believe that ... our doctors, nurses and other clinicians have to be trained in life-saving techniques and procedures," adding, "At times, [abortion] could be a life-saving technique or procedure" (Fischer, East Valley Tribune, 4/5).

~ Florida: The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has launched the website to issue a declaration of incorporation for women who would like one, AP/MSNBC reports. Howard Simon, chair of the organization, said, "The Florida Legislature -- and extreme social conservatives across the country -- are taking rules and regulations off of businesses and adding them to uteruses." Simon said that telling lawmakers that a woman's body is her own business "is really the best way to get them to leave it alone." On the site, women can print a document declaring the "incorporation" of her uterus. Men also will be able to incorporate an honorary uterus (AP/MSNBC, 4/5). According to the Florida Independent, the campaign was inspired by comments made by state Rep. Scott Randolph (D), who last week in a debate on abortion-related bills suggested that his wife should "incorporate her uterus" in hopes that it would receive the same kind of privacy and protection businesses receive (Lopez, Florida Independent, 4/5).

~ Idaho: The Idaho House on Tuesday voted 54-14 to approve a Senate bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, sending the bill to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) for his signature, the AP/Beaumont Enterprise reports. The bill, based on a Nebraska law that claims a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks, includes exemptions when a woman's life is at risk or she faces "substantial and irreversible physical impairment." The bill does not provide exceptions for rape or incest. The state attorney general has issued an opinion that the measure is unconstitutional (Bonner, AP/Beaumont Enterprise, 4/5).

~ Missouri: The Missouri House on Tuesday voted 120-35 to endorse a bill (HB 28) that allows pharmacists to refuse to sell and fill prescriptions for emergency contraception and medication abortion without being sued, losing state aid or having their licenses revoked, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. While there is no state law that requires pharmacies to sell any kind of drug, state Rep. David Sater (R), the bill's sponsor, said he wanted to prevent any such law in the future. The bill also puts several restrictions on the use of medication abortion. The measure would require a physician to wait at least 24 hours after examining a woman before prescribing it, give her multiple warnings about the drug and be present when she takes it. The physician also would be required to have at least $1 million in medical malpractice insurance and would face misdemeanor criminal charges if he or she breaks any of those provisions. Democrats and opponents of the bill say the measure would create a burden for women who live in rural parts of the state (Duplantier, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4/5).

~ Montana: A Montana Senate committee approved a measure (HB 574) on Tuesday that would change the state Constitution to say that it does not include a woman's right to abortion or public funding for abortion services, the AP/Flathead Beacon reports. The bill needs approval from two-thirds of lawmakers before residents can vote on the constitutional amendment. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-6 to stall another proposed change to the constitution in a measure (HB 490) that would define a human life as beginning at conception. Opponents said if the measure is approved it likely will not withstand a court challenge (Dockery, AP/Flathead Beacon, 4/5).

~ Ohio: The Ohio Senate on Wednesday voted 24-8 to pass a bill (HB 78) banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus is found to be viable, Reuters reports. The bill requires doctors to determine whether the fetus is viable and to get a second opinion from another doctor. If the doctors determined the fetus was capable of surviving outside the womb, the woman would not be able to receive abortion care, though the bill allows exceptions to save the woman's life or if she faces a severe health impairment. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the bill's exceptions are "dangerously narrow" and would harm pregnant women who experience "heart-breaking complications," such as a fetal anomaly or cancer. Copeland said, "Anti-choice politicians who campaigned on less government are now passing legislation that creates more governmental interference in women's personal decisions. ... Every woman's situation is different, and it's unacceptable for anti-choice lawmakers to think they should make the personal, private decisions that belong to women and their doctors" (Wisniewski, Reuters, 4/6).

~ Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday voted 38-8 to approve a bill (HB 1888) banning abortion after 20 weeks based on the theory that a fetus can feel pain at that point, the AP/NewsOn6 reports. The bill includes an exemption if the life of the woman is a risk or if there is a risk of physical impairment. The measure must return to the House before it can be sent to the governor. Opponents say the bill is unnecessary because abortion is not performed after 17 weeks in the state (AP/NewsOn6, 4/5).

~ Virginia: The Virginia Senate and House on Wednesday passed an amendment proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to a bill setting up state health care exchanges as required under the federal health reform bill, the New York Times reports. The amendment forbids any insurance plan sold under the state's health insurance exchange from covering abortion (Tavernise, New York Times, 4/7). State senators voted 20-20 on the amendment, which is attached to a bill approved last month outlining how the exchange would be set up. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the amendment (AP/WUSA9, 4/6). The amendment includes exceptions for rape, incest and danger to a woman's life. The Hyde Amendment already restricts federal funding for abortion for low-income women enrolled in Medicaid. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene said the Virginia amendment "affects a much broader segment of women" who receive no federal or state subsidies but would be purchasing private plans in the exchange (New York Times, 4/7).