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Iowa, Maine, Minn., Neb., Texas Consider Abortion-Related Bills

Iowa, Maine, Minn., Neb., Texas Consider Abortion-Related Bills

May 5, 2011 — State Sens. Joe Seng (D) and Tom Hancock (D) joined 24 Republicans in signing a petition to advance a bill (HF 657) that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, the AP/Connecticut Post reports. The petition pulls the bill out of a committee, where it had stalled, sending it to the full Senate for debate as early as Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal (D) could still block debate on the bill because he has the authority to decide whether and when measures are considered. He has said in the past that he would allow debate on a measure restricting abortion rights if a committee approved such a bill. Gronstal released a statement saying that he supports abortion rights but opposes efforts by abortion provider LeRoy Carhart to open a clinic in Council Bluffs that would offer abortion care in the second half of pregnancy.

According to the AP/Connecticut Post, Gronstal's decision could decide the fate of the measure, which has already gained approval in the House. Gov. Terry Branstad (R) has said he would sign the bill (Glover, AP/Connecticut Post, 5/3).

Maine Judiciary Panel Considers Three Abortion-Related Bills

The Maine House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday held hearings on three antiabortion-rights bills under consideration by the state's first Republican-led Legislature in decades, the AP/Washington Examiner reports.

One bill (HP 98) would require a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion, except in cases of medical emergency. Another measure (HP 684) would require that women seeking abortion services be informed of the risks of abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure and require state health officials to develop a brochure describing the risks and alternatives to abortion.

The third bill (HP 1072) would repeal the state's current parental consent law, which requires consent from a minor's parents, guardians, an adult family member, judge or counselor before she may have an abortion. Instead, the bill would require the minor to obtain notarized written consent from a parent or legal guardian, with few exceptions.

At Tuesday's hearing, opponents testified that informed consent already takes place under current law, as it does with any medical procedure. Joan Leitzer, a doctor and psychiatrist in Portland, said the government-authored notification that is proposed would contain "coercive" language aimed at convincing women against having an abortion (Adams, AP/Washington Examiner, 5/3).

Minn. Senate Judiciary Panel Approves Abortion Bans

The Minnesota Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved two bills that would restrict abortion access, the AP/KSTP reports. The panel voted 8-5 in favor of legislation (SF 264) that would bar abortion coverage for women insured by state health care programs.

The panel approved by 8-4 vote a bill (SF 711) that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, except to save a woman's life or to prevent lasting physical impairment.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is expected to veto the bills if they make it to his desk, according to the AP/KSTP (AP/KSTP, 5/3).

Neb. Telemedicine Bill Advances to Full Legislature

Nebraska's Judiciary Committee on Tuesday granted approval to a bill (LB 521) by Sen. Tony Fulton that would bar the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion, sending the measure to the full Legislature for consideration, the Omaha Herald-World reports.

The bill was struck down last week by the same committee but moved forward this week after Sen. Burke Harr decided to support the bill.

The bill aims to prevent Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from replicating an Iowa program that uses telemedicine to provide medication abortions to women in rural areas that lack an abortion provider. Supporters of the bill ramped up efforts to pass this bill after the Des Moines-based affiliate announced it plans to open six clinics outside Lincoln and Omaha (Stoddard, Omaha Herald-World, 5/3).

Texas House Approves 'Choose Life' License Plates

The Texas House gave preliminary approval to a measure (SB 257) that would authorize specialty "Choose Life" license plates, which would raise money for pregnant women considering adoption, infants awaiting adoption, pregnancy testing and adoption-related counseling, the AP/KVUE reports.

The Senate has already approved the measure. If the bill is approved by the House in a final vote, it will be sent to Gov. Rick Perry (R) for consideration (AP/KVUE, 5/3).