Where abor­tion war stands

Foes of pro­ce­dure say mo­men­tum’s on their side, but ri­vals not giv­ing up

Los Angeles Times - - NEWS - By Alexan­dra Zavis alexan­dra.zavis @la­times.com

Op­po­nents of abor­tion have had rea­son for op­ti­mism this year. With Re­pub­li­cans in con­trol of the U.S. Capi­tol and a pres­i­dent who em­braces their cause, ac­cess to the pro­ce­dure has ap­peared in greater jeop­ardy than it has in years.

Abor­tion foes were dealt a set­back last week when Se­nate Re­pub­li­cans failed to ap­prove a bill to roll back Pres­i­dent Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act. All the ver­sions up for a vote would have cut fed­eral fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood for one year, a long-sought goal.

Mal­lory Quigley, spokeswoman for the an­tiabor­tion Su­san B. An­thony List, said the votes would be a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment to the “pro­life grass roots” who knocked on doors, made phone calls and ral­lied to get like-minded law­mak­ers elected. But she added, “I think what is im­por­tant to note is that the pro-life el­e­ments were not the cause of fail­ure for the bill.”

“This was an area of unity for Re­pub­li­cans,” she said. “So I do think that there are go­ing to be more wins in the fu­ture.”

Abor­tion foes aren’t wait­ing on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to act, how­ever. Con­ser­va­tive state law­mak­ers have passed a rash of re­stric­tive laws in bat­tle­grounds such as Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri and Texas.

Pro­po­nents of re­pro­duc­tive rights are fight­ing back and have per­suaded fed­eral courts to block some mea­sures that could place an “un­due bur­den” on a woman’s abil­ity to ob­tain a le­gal abor­tion.

Here’s a recap of what’s been hap­pen­ing in the abor­tion war at the White House, in Congress and around the coun­try:

The White House

Pres­i­dent Trump once de­scribed him­self as “very pro-choice,” de­spite hat­ing abor­tion. But his ac­tions since tak­ing of­fice have re­vived hope among an­tiabor­tion ac­tivists for changes that seemed im­pos­si­ble un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

For­eign aid ban

One of Trump’s first of­fi­cial acts was to re­in­state and ex­pand a ban on fund­ing for in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide abor­tions or re­lated coun­sel­ing. Trump’s ver­sion of the pol­icy, first in­tro­duced un­der the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion, ap­plies not only to the roughly $600 mil­lion that the U.S. pro­vides an­nu­ally for fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices but to al­most all global health as­sis­tance — about $8.8 bil­lion worth.

Key ap­point­ments

Abor­tion foes have seen cham­pi­ons of their cause as­cend to top po­si­tions in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price and pres­i­den­tial ad­vi­sor Kellyanne Con­way.

Trump has also promised to ap­point U.S. Supreme Court jus­tices who would over­turn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade de­ci­sion that le­gal­ized abor­tion across the coun­try.

The se­lec­tion of Judge Neil M. Gor­such did not give con­ser­va­tive jus­tices the ma­jor­ity they would need to do that, but any fu­ture va­can­cies could change the com­po­si­tion of the court. Trump’s fed­eral court nom­i­na­tions have also in­cluded peo­ple who are widely viewed as re­cep­tive to fur­ther re­stric­tions on abor­tion.

In Congress

Cur­tail­ing fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood has been a pri­or­ity for con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers be­cause the group is the largest sin­gle provider of abor­tions in the U.S. and a pow­er­ful ad­vo­cate for re­pro­duc­tive rights.

Fed­eral fund­ing

In April, Trump signed a law re­vers­ing a reg­u­la­tion fi­nal­ized in the last days of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that pre­vented states from with­hold­ing fed­eral Ti­tle X grants for fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices from groups that also pro­vide abor­tions.

The Repub­li­can plans to re­place Oba­macare would also have pre­vented Planned Par­ent­hood from re­ceiv­ing re­im­burse­ments from Med­i­caid for one year, even though it is al­ready il­le­gal to use fed­eral money for abor­tion ser­vices.

The two pro­grams ac­count for the ma­jor­ity of the funds that Planned Par­ent­hood re­ceives from gov­ern­ment sources. Such cuts could force the clo­sure of health­care cen­ters that pro­vide con­tra­cep­tion, can­cer screen­ings and other ser­vices to unin­sured pa­tients, the group says.

State leg­is­la­tures

Con­ser­va­tive state law­mak­ers have been try­ing to roll back ac­cess to abor­tion since the Roe de­ci­sion, but mo­men­tum has picked up since Re­pub­li­cans took con­trol of many state leg­is­la­tures in 2010. Hun­dreds of re­stric­tive state mea­sures have been passed, ac­cord­ing to the Guttmacher In­sti­tute, which ad­vo­cates for re­pro­duc­tive rights, in­clud­ing abor­tion.

Ser­vices re­stricted

Iowa and Ken­tucky adopted laws this year that bar most abor­tions af­ter 20 weeks of preg­nancy. At least 16 other states have such laws, even though fed­eral courts have ruled that they vi­o­late the Roe de­ci­sion guar­an­tee­ing women the right to ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy be­fore a fe­tus is able to sur­vive out­side the womb.

Ten­nessee en­acted a mea­sure re­quir­ing that two doc­tors con­firm that a fe­tus is not vi­able be­fore an abor­tion can be pro­vided at 20 weeks or later, ex­cept in a med­i­cal emer­gency.

Laws adopted in Arkansas and Texas in­clude bans on a com­monly used sec­ond-trimester pro­ce­dure known as di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion. Sim­i­lar mea­sures are al­ready in ef­fect in Mis­sis­sippi and West Vir­ginia. Courts have blocked Arkansas and at least four other states from en­forc­ing them.

Other mea­sures ap­proved this year in­clude ones man­dat­ing that women re­ceive an ul­tra­sound be­fore un­der­go­ing an abor­tion (Iowa, Ken­tucky and Wyoming), im­pos­ing re­stric­tions on the dis­po­si­tion of fe­tal re­mains (Arkansas and Texas), and in­tro­duc­ing ad­di­tional re­quire­ments for mi­nors seek­ing the pro­ce­dure (In­di­ana, Louisiana and West Vir­ginia).

Ef­forts to ‘de­fund’

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers in Iowa de­cided to set up a wholly state-run fam­ily plan­ning pro­gram — for­go­ing about $3 mil­lion in an­nual fund­ing from Med­i­caid — so they can ex­clude or­ga­ni­za­tions with ties to abor­tion providers. As a re­sult, Planned Par­ent­hood says it had to close four of its 12 health cen­ters in the state. Texas and Missouri have taken sim­i­lar steps.

In Ari­zona, GOP law­mak­ers in­cluded a pro­vi­sion in the state bud­get that could divert about $2 mil­lion in fed­eral Ti­tle X grants from Planned Par­ent­hood. The move could jeop­ar­dize five health cen­ters, ac­cord­ing to the group.

Ken­tucky and South Carolina also took steps to deny funds for fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices to or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide abor­tions.

Fight­ing back

Planned Par­ent­hood and other de­fend­ers of re­pro­duc­tive rights have been mak­ing their case to law­mak­ers and stag­ing protests around the coun­try.

In some states, Democrats stepped in to pro­tect or ex­pand ac­cess to abor­tion. A bill headed to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown in Ore­gon, for ex­am­ple, would in most cases re­quire pri­vate in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to cover abor­tions at no cost to pa­tients. New York also adopted reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing plans to cover abor­tion ser­vices.

The Demo­cratic gov­er­nors of Mon­tana, Min­nesota and Vir­ginia ve­toed bills that would have in­creased re­stric­tions on abor­tions or pre­vented gov­ern­ment dol­lars from go­ing to groups that per­form the pro­ce­dure.

In other states, courts in­ter­vened. A fed­eral judge in Arkansas blocked the state from en­forc­ing four new abor­tion re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing a law on the dis­po­si­tion of fe­tal re­mains that op­po­nents say would ef­fec­tively re­quire a part­ner’s con­sent be­fore a woman could get an abor­tion.

A fed­eral judge in Missouri struck down re­quire­ments that doc­tors who per­form abor­tions have ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at nearby hos­pi­tals and that their clin­ics meet hos­pi­tal-like stan­dards for out­pa­tient surgery.

Both states are ap­peal­ing, and law­mak­ers in Missouri held a spe­cial ses­sion this sum­mer to im­pose new reg­u­la­tions on abor­tion providers.

Drew An­gerer Getty Im­ages

AN­TIABOR­TION AC­TIVISTS rally out­side the U.S. Supreme Court in Jan­uary. Cur­tail­ing fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood has been a pri­or­ity for con­ser­va­tives.

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