Three abortion policies to watch in 2012

at 09:34 AM ET, 01/24/2012


Pro-life activists march up Constitution Avenue at the March for Life rally on Jan. 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Brendan Hoffman - GETTY IMAGES)
The last two days I’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the past year in abortion politics and how a new wave of restrictions have reshaped Roe v. Wade, which hit its 39th anniversary on Sunday. In the coming year, there’s little expectation that the rate of restrictions will slow down. Republicans still control 19 state governments and abortion-rights opponents are readying an agenda that looks to build off of last year’s successes. Here are three issues that will likely define the abortion rights landscape in 2012:

1. A late-term abortion ban in Washington, D.C.: Five states passed “Fetal Pain” Abortion Laws in 2011, up from just one state with such a law the year before. The restrictions outlaw abortion after 20 weeks on the basis that the fetus could feel pain (the scientific research on this is disputed). On Monday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) introduced a version of that law for the District of Columbia, the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The National Right to Life Committee announced Monday that Franks’s legislation, and similar bills across the country, will be its top priority in 2012.

“Enactment of the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will be a top legislative priority for National Right to Life during 2012,” Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director, wrote in a memo on Monday. “The capital city of the United States should not also be the capital for causing torment to unborn babies in the sixth month and later.”

2. Restrictions on federal funding for abortion providers. At Monday’s March for Life, Americans United for Life passed out “Defund Planned Parenthood” signs to its supporters. AUL president Charmaine Yoest says that’s meant to signal her group’s priorities for the coming year. “You can’t under emphasize the importance of political pressure,” she told me in an interview last week. “We’ll be calling for more congressional hearings and looking at the funding issue, both at the federal and state level.” Already, abortion rights opponents have seen success on this front: the New Hampshire House of Representative voted to bar abortion providers from receiving government funds, for family planning services they provide, on Jan. 18.

3. No private insurance coverage of abortion. The most common abortion restriction states passed last year had to do with private insurance coverage of abortion. A total of 16 states now ban insurance coverage for abortion, either statewide or on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, up from five before the health reform law passed. “As terrible as last year was, and it was very, very bad, as many as 28 states are vulnerable to this type of law,” says Donna Crane, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. At the same time, there may also be a counter-trend developing: Washington State is now considering a law that would require insurers to cover abortion.

Related Links

- Slideshow: How Roe v. Wade shaped abortion rights, in nine charts.

- Interview: Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest on a “breathtaking” year for abortion restrictions.

- Interview: NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan on the challenges and opportunities her group faces.

 
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