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Report: Nearly 50 Measures Restricting Repro Health Passed in 2015

December 8, 2015 — States passed about 50 restrictions on reproductive health care in 2015, according to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, The Hill reports (Ferris, The Hill, 12/7).

Reproductive Health Care Restrictions in 2015

According to the report, state lawmakers in 2015 introduced nearly 400 bills restricting reproductive health care access and enacted 47 such measures (Center for Reproductive Rights report, December 2015).

Sixteen states, most of which are located in the South, approved the new restrictions (The Hill, 12/7). For example, five southern states voted to increase the length of the mandatory delay between when patients seeking abortion care receive state-mandated counseling and when they can undergo the procedure. According to the report, "This medically unnecessary and harmful requirement forces each patient to make two separate trips to receive the care that she needs and demeans her ability to determine the best decision for herself and her family."

Moreover, the researchers noted that "every single southern state" would impose a mandatory delay before abortion care if a Florida court had not blocked a mandatory delay measure (HB 633) in the state.

The report also found that many of the antiabortion-rights laws considered in 2015 were targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, which the report described as "politically motivated restrictions that do not apply to any other similar health care, interfere with patient's personal decision-making, and ultimately block access to abortion care."

Further, state lawmakers also tried to pass antiabortion-rights legislation that targeted the patient-provider relationship. Such efforts included legislation that would require physicians to tell their patients medically unfounded statements, as well as laws in Kansas (SB 95) and Oklahoma (HB 1721) that would prevent physicians from offering patients "the most common and medically-proven method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester" (Center for Reproductive Rights report, December 2015).

In addition, lawmakers in West Virginia and Wisconsin passed measures that ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers in Michigan, Ohio and South Carolina also considered such legislation. In total, 16 states ban abortion after 20 weeks (The Hill, 12/7).

The report also noted that Rhode Island passed a law (HB 5900) that requires health insurers selling plans on the state's marketplace to offer "at least one health plan at each tier in the exchange [that excludes] coverage for abortion services." The researchers wrote, "Restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion are one of the oldest strategies in the book for anti-choice policymakers and continue to proliferate in states across the country, blocking women from care they have a legal right to but cannot access."

Court Action

According to the report, courts in 2015 have issued preliminary injunctions against certain antiabortion-rights laws and have issued final rulings in other lawsuits protecting women's abortion access.

For example, the report cited several favorable rulings in lawsuits over admitting privileges laws in Alabama, Louisiana and Wisconsin. However, the report also noted the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to uphold TRAP provisions in a Texas omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) (Center for Reproductive Rights Report, December 2015). The case now is before the Supreme Court (The Hill, 12/7).

Meanwhile, the researchers also found that "[e]very court that has reviewed a pre-viability ban -- whether at 6, 12, or 20 weeks -- has struck it down as a clear and indisputable violation of constitutional law," including bans in Arkansas, Idaho and North Dakota.

According to the report, courts in 2015 also issued rulings against other kinds of antiabortion-rights laws, such as efforts in Alaska to restrict Medicaid abortion coverage and telemedicine abortion restrictions in Iowa.

Pro-Reproductive Health and Rights Measures in 2015

Meanwhile, the report found that about 300 measures aimed at advancing reproductive health and rights were introduced in 2015. Such measures include bills that would protect the patient-provider relationship, curb misinformation spread by antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers, improve insurance coverage for reproductive health care, facilitate access to contraception, protect workers against employer discrimination based on reproductive health choices, bolster workplace protections for pregnant employees and protect the rights of pregnant people who are incarcerated.

The authors also cited policy agendas introduced in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington that "push back against political interference in the patient-provider relationship, and protect clinicians providing essential reproductive health services." For example, the Trust. Respect. Access. campaign in Texas "is building momentum around policies that trust Texans to determine the best health care decisions for themselves, respect medical professionals to provide high-quality medically accurate health care, and provide patients with access to a full range of essential reproductive health care," according to the report (Center for Reproductive Rights report, December 2015).