Restrictions on reproductive rights passed by anti-choice state legislatures this year are set to take effect July 1, even as abortion-related legislative and legal battles rage on.
The courts have recently blocked several anti-choice laws passed by state lawmakers this year, giving reproductive rights advocates in states such as Kansas and Florida temporary reprieve as the laws are litigated.
Tennessee voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that allowed lawmakers to pass legislation restricting reproductive rights and creating regulations for abortion providers. Republican legislators introduced several anti-choice proposals during this year’s legislative session.
Two laws passed by lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature take effect today.
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Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law in May that mandates a 48-hour waiting period before a person can receive abortion care. The law will affect women seeking abortion care at all of the state’s seven abortion clinics. Tennessee is one of 28 states with a forced waiting period, and one of five states with a waiting period of more than 24 hours.
Haslam signed another bill into law in May that imposes new regulations on clinics that provide abortion care. SB 1280 requires facilities or physicians’ offices that perform more than 50 abortions in a calendar year to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers (ASTCs), mandating the conversion of such offices into mini-hospitals. Converting clinics into ASTCs is costly, and the policy is designed to force abortion providers to shut down.
Four Tennessee clinics that provide abortion care are already located in facilities that are licensed ASTCs.
However, two clinics located in Nashville and Bristol likely would have been forced to close if a federal judge last week hadn’t granted them a temporary restraining order. The two clinics argued before the court that they were unable to obtain the required licenses from the state Department of Health.
The lawsuit filed by the two clinics also challenged a 2012 law requiring that physicians providing abortion services obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital and the 48-hour forced waiting period law that took effect July 1. Neither of those laws were affected by the judge’s ruling.
A hearing on whether or not to extend the temporary restraining order will be held on July 9.
Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law in May that created more regulations for abortion clinics. SB 546, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, amends state law to redefine an abortion clinic by excluding health-care providers that prescribe abortion-inducing drugs to fewer than five patients a year.
Abortion is already highly regulated in Indiana, and access is severely limited. As of 2011, 93 percent of Indiana counties had no abortion clinic, and 61 percent of Indiana women lived in these counties, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill into law in April that made his state the first in the nation to criminalize a medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions. SB 95, which would outlaw dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, was scheduled to take effect today. It’s widely considered one of the country’s most radical anti-choice measures.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the law, and last week a state judge blocked the law. In the ruling the judge said that the law likely violated both the United States and Kansas constitutions.
The law was based on copycat legislation drafted by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), and redefined the D and E procedure as “dismemberment” abortion. The graphic and medically inaccurate language in the law describing the D and E procedure is key to NRLC’s strategy of passing similar anti-choice legislation in other states.
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation to ban the D and E procedure in April, and similar legislation was introduced but failed to pass in Missouri, South Dakota, and South Carolina. Anti-choice activists in Arkansas are already planning to push similar legislation during the state’s 2017 legislative session.
Republican lawmakers in Florida passed a law in June that would force a pregnant person to wait a minimum of 24 hours and make at least one additional trip to the physician before having an abortion. The law was set to take effect today, but a Florida state court judge issued a ruling Tuesday that blocked the law.
However, the Florida Attorney General’s filed an immediate appeal with the First District Court of Appeals that prevented the block on the law from taking immediate effect. The ACLU has filed a motion requesting that the block of the law take effect while the case proceeds. A ruling on that motion could be issued any time this week.
Until the ruling is issued, the law will go into effect today.