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Kan., Mont., Va. Approve Legislation Restricting Abortion Access

Kan., Mont., Va. Approve Legislation Restricting Abortion Access

February 25, 2011 — The Kansas House on Wednesday approved two bills further restricting abortion access, the Wichita Eagle reports. One bill (HB 2218) would ban abortion after 22 weeks gestation except in medical emergencies. Supporters of the bill say that studies show fetal pain receptors develop and begin to function before the third trimester, while opponents say that the research is inconclusive and that it does not take into account fetuses with brain development problems who will not be able to feel pain at any point in their development. A separate bill (HB 2035) would further restrict minors’ access to abortion by requiring minors to obtain consent from a parent before having an abortion. Current law requires one parent to be notified, although neither parent may veto the decision. Opponents of the bill are concerned that it could complicate issues where domestic violence is present in a family. The new law allows minors to bypass the requirement by petitioning a judge. Other provisions of the bill include changing the terminology currently used in all state laws by requiring that the word "fetus" be replaced by the words "unborn child," allowing the Attorney General's Office to prosecute alleged abortion crimes if the local or county attorney did not, allowing family members of women to sue if they believe an abortion was performed illegally, expand record keeping requirements on late-term abortions and revise informed consent law wording (Fertig, Wichita Eagle, 2/24).

Montana House Approves Bill Requiring Women To Be Evaluated Before Abortion

The Montana House on Wednesday voted 55-44 to approve legislation (HB 544) that would require women to be evaluated at least one hour before receiving an abortion to determine whether she feels coerced into having the procedure done or is at risk of reacting negatively to the procedure, the AP/Billings Gazette reports. The bill would allow women who are not screened to sue physicians for up to $10,000. Supporters of the measure say the bill would protect women from physicians who disregard the physical or mental state of women receiving abortions, while opponents say the bill would create unnecessary hurdles and does not follow standard medical procedure (Dockery, AP/Billings Gazette, 2/24).

Va. General Assembly Approves Bill To Regulate Abortion Clinics as Hospitals; Gov. McDonnell Promises to Make it Law

Clinics in Virginia that provide abortion care in the first-trimester will be regulated as hospitals instead of physician offices under a bill (SB 924) approved by state lawmakers Thursday, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. The legislation would make Virginia the first state to require such standards, which would require the clinics to undertake expensive structural changes or face closure. Clinics currently are licensed by the state, but are treated like physician offices, similar to those that provide plastic and corrective eye surgeries, colonoscopies and a range of other medical procedures, (Helderman, Washington Post, 2/25). State House Republicans attached the measure to legislation already approved by the Senate, which allowed lawmakers to sidestep a Senate committee that typically rejects antiabortion legislation and force a full Senate vote (Potter, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/24). A tie vote on the bill was broken by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), and Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) said he will sign the bill into law. The legislation would take effect on July 1 and give the state Board of Health 280 days to create new policies for all clinics that perform at least five first-trimester abortions per month. Abortion-rights advocates said the new requirements would push an estimated 17 of the state's 21 clinics out of business (Washington Post, 2/25). State Democrats say the bill is unconstitutional because it puts "undue burden" on low-income women and those in rural areas, (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/24).