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State-Level GOP Victories Mean More Antiabortion-Rights Legislation To Come

State-Level GOP Victories Mean More Antiabortion-Rights Legislation To Come

December 1, 2014 — Expanded Republican control of state legislatures and governorships after the midterm election is expected to lead to more antiabortion-rights measures, with some GOP state lawmakers already preparing legislation, Politico reports.

With the GOP gaining control of 11 more state legislative chambers this November, Republicans now hold the majority in two-thirds of legislatives bodies nationwide, according to Politico. In addition, the GOP took two additional governorships in the election, meaning that 31 states will have Republican governors in 2015.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said she expects "state legislative attacks on women's health [in 2015], even though the vast majority of the public wants elected officials to protect and expand access to safe and legal abortion, birth control and preventive health care."

Abortion-Rights Opponents Target Multiple Fronts

Abortion-rights opponents intend to promote legislation in states with newly elected GOP lawmakers, as well as in states that have already passed restrictions in recent years.

"In some states where we've had success in the past we've gotten stronger," Mary Spaulding Balch, state legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said, adding that "in some states where we weren't able to pass anything we were able to improve our vote count."

For example, Arkansas, which already has strict antiabortion-rights laws in place, is expected to see additional restrictions because a Republican is succeeding the Democratic governor, who vetoed two antiabortion-rights measures. Arkansas lawmakers might pursue a ban on doctors administering abortion drugs via telemedicine, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, Tennessee will likely see antiabortion legislation after voters in November approved a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) to amend the state constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights. Tennessee Rep. Rick Womick (R) has already filed measures that would require a mandatory delay and ultrasound before an abortion.

Other states considered targets for antiabortion-rights legislation include Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

However, some activists have noted that GOP gains do not necessarily translate to an antiabortion-rights majority, especially when a governor is likely to veto such legislation. For example, in Nevada, while Republicans now control both the state House and Senate, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval supports abortion rights (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 11/28).