State Regulations Mean Big Changes for Abortion Rights - Girls Week


By Dane Feldman

Photo courtesy of Jenn Farr

Four decades after the Supreme Court’s incendiary Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is still a loaded topic to discuss in this country and one of the most polarizing issues in American politics. Recently, the issue has come to represent a legislative grey area between federal and state powers, generated from the belief held by both sides of the argument, pro-choice and pro-life, that they possess the moral high ground over the other.

Although Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, states have since passed their own laws regarding abortion and when in the duration of the pregnancy it is no longer acceptable. Pro-choice and pro-life advocates are still fighting for full authority 40 years later.

As of late, the Kermit Gosnell trial fueled the already hot-button issue of state abortion laws. Unfortunately for those in support of pro-choice, Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s case is aiding red states in their fight to crack down on abortion laws.

Gosnell, an abortion doctor from Philadelphia, was found guilty yesterday of three counts of first degree murder as well as the involuntary manslaughter of a woman who died under his care. In the wake of this decision, Gosnell now faces a potential death sentence. While this trial takes place in Philadelphia, states across the US are pushing for change.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona made it clear early this May that she intends to support legislation that would keep Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the funding from Brewer’s new Medicaid expansion plan. Although Planned Parenthood currently provides family services via Medicaid, federal and state law prohibit using public money for the majority of abortions. Yet, Brewer’s apparent animosity towards Planned Parenthood and all things pro-choice means this expansion plan could pass, despite warnings that this could cost her Democrat votes.

Meanwhile, in North Dakota even more severe changes are underway. In early April, the state house approved a “measure” that would ban abortions any time after the 20th week of pregnancy, which is at least 2-4 weeks before viability is established. According to The New York Times, Gov. Jack Dalrymple intends to sign the “fetal pain” bill and has already signed a separate measure that could ban abortion any time after a heartbeat is detected which could be after just six weeks.

However restrictive North Dakota’s new rulings on abortion may sound, Forbes reports that Kansas passed the most restrictive in the country at the end of April. This new law “declares [that] the life of each human being begins at fertilization,” but because of Roe v. Wade, Kansas cannot ban abortion all together.

Instead, Gov. Sam Brownback signed an anti-abortion bill that would, in essence, make it far more difficult for women who seek abortion services by way of a new state tax code. Like most states, Kansas’ sales tax excludes taxes on prescription drugs, but this new law means taxation on prescriptions for abortion. In addition, non-profit organizations that provide care and services to women seeking abortion will now no longer be exempt from taxation. It’s possible that some health care centers may no longer offer abortions because of these new taxation laws, which means bad news all around for pro-choice women in Kansas.

In Virginia, more deliberate restrictions on abortion clinics have occurred since April. New regulations require the state’s 20 abortion clinics abide by standards set for new hospitals, which could cost anywhere around $500,000. That’s exactly what it would have cost for Hillcrest Clinic, which had been in business for 40 years — or since the passing of Roe v. Wade — but had to surrender and shut down after these new regulations were put in place and the owners could not afford the upkeep.

According to The Washington Post, what happened to Hillcrest Clinic is exactly what Virginia policy advocates hoped for when they pushed to pass this requirement. Supposedly, the combined cost of compliance is $14.5 million for 15 of the clinics. This likely means that Hillcrest Clinic won’t be the only clinic to perish in the wake of this strict new state regulation.

Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to change the current state abortion laws in favor of pro-choice advocates, a trend that seems fairly uncommon in recent months. According to The New York Times, the new legislation “would guarantee women in New York the right to late-term abortions when their health is in danger or the fetus is not viable.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Photo courtesy of Patja

The new legislation would also move abortion regulations from penal law to public health law. Cuomo says, “it’s her body, it’s her choice” in his State of the State address regarding his Women’s Equality Agenda. Cuomo seems to be standing by his statements and promises to aide women’s rights in the state of New York.

The feud between pro-choice advocates and pro-life advocates has no end in sight, as both progressions and regressions have been made at the state level since the passing of Roe v. Wade. Perhaps an update on a federal level would help move abortion rights forward, but for now it appears state regulations will continue to consistently change, some for the benefit of pro-choice advocates and some in favor of pro-life advocates.