Legislative Lowlights: Republicans Give the Green Light for LGBTQ Discrimination
One Democrat supported a bill introduced by Texas Republicans that would prohibit state agencies from penalizing workers who refuse to provide services based on religious belief.
Rewire.News tracks anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation as it works its way through state legislatures. Here’s an overview of the bills we’re watching.
State legislatures in Indiana and North Dakota passed measures banning the most common method of second-trimester abortion; Republican lawmakers in Alabama want to criminalize abortion; and conservative lawmakers in Tennessee and Texas are advancing religious imposition laws that would allow businesses and people to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range) and state Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) introduced the “Human Life Protection Act,” which would make abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses. Except in cases in which abortion is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant person, HB 314/SB 211 would make abortion a Class A felony—punishable by ten years to life in prison. An attempted abortion would be a Class C felony—punishable by one to ten years in prison. The bill does not include exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. Collins said the intent of the bill—which, if passed, would be the most restrictive anti-choice law in the United States—is to spark a legal challenge to overturn Roe v. Wade.
State Rep. Christopher England (D-Tuscaloosa) last week introduced the “Jane Doe Act,” which would require a pregnant minor seeking abortion care to present a certified birth certificate to the staff or physician at an abortion clinic upon their first visit to the facility. Except in cases of medical emergency, a pregnant minor and their parent or legal guardian would not be able to provide consent for an abortion without first presenting the minor’s birth certificate. Current state law requires a parent or guardian to provide the minor’s birth certificate at the time they provide parental consent. Because the bill would require a minor to present a birth certificate at the initial visit, minors who obtain judicial bypass to skip parental consent might still be prevented from getting an abortion if they don’t have their birth certificate. The bill would also require abortion care facilities to report to the state any minor seeking abortion care or presenting with a sexually transmitted disease. If the minor is under the age of 16, the physician would be required to ask them to “state the name and age of the individual who is believed to be the father of the unborn child.” If name and age are given, that information would need to be included in the required report.
Both measures are pending in committee.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed another handful of anti-choice measures into law last week. SB 2, the “Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act,” makes it a felony for a physician to perform an abortion if they know the patient is seeking it due to a possibility the fetus has Down syndrome. This type of legislation, which has been blocked by courts in Indiana and Ohio, tries to pit reproductive rights against the rights of those with disabilities. A similar measure was signed into law in Utah last month, though that ban won’t take effect until a court upholds the law. Arkansas’ ban will take effect this summer.
SB 3 requires health-care providers to file a report within three days to the state health department any time they diagnose or treat someone for a complication that may be the result of an abortion. The law imposes fines for each violation and revokes the medical license of any provider who amasses three violations.
SB 448 requires physicians—at the risk of a felony—to be licensed to practice medicine and be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. The measure defines “viability” as a “reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the unborn child outside the body of the mother” and repeals the state’s legal presumption that a fetus is viable at 25 weeks of pregnancy.
Both laws will take effect this summer.
The “Prohibition of Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act,” HB 1399, prohibits state funding of certain types of research involving human embryos. The measure prohibits state funds from being used to buy or receive gametes or human embryos if it’s known that they would ultimately be destroyed.
The law is set to take effect in January.
The Arkansas General Assembly last week passed SB 278, which would increase the state’s medically unnecessary waiting period before abortion from 48 to 72 hours. Five states (Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah) currently require pregnant patients to wait three days after their initial consultation before obtaining an abortion. The measure would also require abortion facilities to be located within 30 miles of a hospital that provides gynecological or surgical services, and require physicians to report on abortions that result in a live birth. The bill passed the state house last Tuesday in a 75-13 vote. State Reps. Don Glover (D-Dermott) and Chris Richey (D-Helena) joined Republicans to pass the measure. Lawmakers in the state senate on Thursday granted final passage in a 29-5 vote.
The measure now heads to the governor, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
Republicans in the state senate last Tuesday passed HB 1211, a measure that would make it a felony to perform a “dismemberment abortion” unless it’s necessary to prevent serious health risks to the pregnant person or to save their life. The measure—which passed the state house in February—targets dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, the most common method of second-trimester abortion care. A person who performs a D and E procedure would be committing a Level 5 Felony, punishable by one to six years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. Mississippi and West Virginia prohibit the procedure, but similar bans have been blocked or temporarily enjoined by courts in eight states.
The measure now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has not yet indicated whether he will sign it into law.
The GOP-controlled state senate last Monday granted final passage to SB 201, which would allow nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists to refuse to participate in an abortion—or prescribe abortion-inducing drugs—if doing so would be contrary to their religious or moral beliefs. Current state law allows doctors and hospital workers to refuse to participate in abortion procedures for religious, moral, or ethical reasons. Similar religious refusal measures—which pose significant danger to patients—are being considered by lawmakers in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas.
The measure is now waiting on Holcomb’s approval. He’s expected to sign it into law.
Kansas lawmakers on Friday granted final passage to SB 67, a measure requiring abortion care providers to inform their patients it may be possible to “reverse” the effects of a medication abortion. The measure would require doctors to give a pregnant person a written notice containing “reversal” information after the first dose of abortion-inducing drugs. SB 67 was originally a life insurance bill, until a conference committee replaced the language with the abortion “reversal” requirements last minute. Democratic lawmakers were able to include a provision requiring physicians who attempt a reversal to report the outcome to the state. Lawmakers in six states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah) have enacted laws regarding the experimental and controversial treatment favored by anti-choice activists.
The measure now heads to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who is expected to veto the measure.
The state senate last Monday passed the “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,” which would make it a felony to deny “medically appropriate and reasonable medical care” to infants born after a failed abortion. “Born-alive” legislation is a fear-mongering tactic used by anti-choice groups and lawmakers based on the myth that doctors are murdering newborns delivered alive during an abortion. State Sens. Frank Smith (D-Poplar) and Gene Vuckovich (D-Anaconda) joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 32-18 vote.
The measure is now pending in the state house judiciary committee with a hearing scheduled for April 11.
Republicans in North Carolina aren’t giving up on prohibiting abortion at 20 weeks. A federal judge last month ruled the state’s 1973 law banning abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy was unconstitutional because it prohibits pre-viability abortions. The court stayed the ruling for 60 days to give the legislature a chance to pass new legislation or appeal the decision. GOP lawmakers in both chambers last week introduced HB 603/SB 547, the so-called “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which would prohibit abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization unless it’s necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant person. The measure is based on copycat legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) that uses junk science to claim fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.
Both measures are pending in committee. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) would have to sign the legislation for it to become law, as North Carolina Republicans no longer have a legislative supermajority.
The state house last week granted final passage for HB 1546, which would ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion. The bill—which passed the state senate last month—would make it a felony to perform a D and E abortion. Three Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 79-12 vote: state Reps. Tracy Boe (D-Mylo), Alisa Mitskog (D-Wahpeton), and Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks). If signed into law, the measure wouldn’t take effect until a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court allows its enforcement.
The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who has already approved one anti-choice measure this session—a medication abortion “reversal” law.
Republicans last Thursday introduced HB 182, a measure that would ban insurance companies from offering coverage for abortion care unless it’s necessary to replant a fertilized ovum or to save a pregnant person’s life. The measure would not include exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. The bill would not prohibit coverage for the treatment of any post-abortion complication. The bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati), introduced similar legislation in 2014.
The measure is pending in the state house insurance committee.
The state house last Monday passed HB 836, which would allow child adoption and foster placement agencies to discriminate in, or refuse, the services they offer to LGBTQ families and children. The measure would prohibit a private licensed child-placing agency from being required to participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions. Democratic state Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 67-22 vote. At least ten states allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to provide services to children and families if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The measure is now pending in the state senate.
The state house on Monday passed a watered-down version of HB 1511, which would redefine “public place” for purposes of the offense of indecent exposure to include restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, or showers. The measure originally expanded the definition of “indecent exposure” to include acts occurring in such facilities designated for single-sex, multi-person use, if the offender is a member of the opposite sex than the sex designated for use. Republicans say the new version only criminalizes public sex acts, but opponents of the bill worry that transgender people will still face harassment if the bill becomes law. Democratic state Rep. Windle joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 69-25 vote.
Lawmakers in the state house on Monday passed a measure that would prohibit state funding of abortion. The “Life Appropriation Act” would prohibit the state from funding a person or entity that performs, induces, refers, or counsels in favor of abortion care. The bill was drafted by Chris Sevier, who has spent the last few years trolling state and federal courts with lawsuits in an attempt to gut LGBTQ rights. Windle joined Republicans once again to pass the measure in a 66-24 vote. Similar measures—which claim abortion is tied to the religion of secular humanism—have been introduced by GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. The bill was amended to clarify that the law would only become operative if the federal government allows a state agency to deny family planning funds to an organization that performs abortions.
Both measures now head to the state senate.
The GOP-majority state senate last Tuesday passed SB 22, which would prohibit taxpayer dollars at both the state and local level from being used to fund abortion facilities and affiliates. The measure would prohibit state and local governments from contracting with agencies that provide abortion care. Prohibited transactions would include: a sale, purchase, lease, donation of money, goods, services, or real property; or any other transaction that provides the abortion provider or affiliate something of value from state or local tax revenue. State Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 20-11 vote.
The state senate last Wednesday passed SB 17, a measure that would allow those employed in certain licensed occupations to discriminate against people based on “sincerely held religious belief.” The bill would prohibit state agencies that issue occupational licenses from penalizing workers who refuse to provide services based on their religion. The measure clarifies that a license holder may not refuse to provide a medical service that’s necessary to prevent death or imminent serious bodily injury. Lucio joined Republicans once again to pass the measure in a 19-12 vote.
Both bills are pending in committee in the house.