Recently, the Guttmacher Institute released its analysis of state legislative trends at the midway point of 2009. According to the Institute, “875 measures related to reproductive health were introduced in the 50 states and DC, and a total of 33 laws were enacted in 27 states.”
So far in 2009, Guttmacher has noticed three trends in legislation at the state level. The first is an emphasis on comprehensive sex education. After gains in three state legislatures this year, 17 states now promote comprehensive sex education in schools. While this is still a long way from where it should be, it is encouraging progress.
Guttmacher notes that state budgets have come under intense scrutiny this year, and money spent on reproductive health is inevitably under the microscope as well. The results of state actions on this money have been a mixed bag so far this year:
In California, Iowa and Minnesota reproductive health advocates appear to have been able to deflect proposed spending reductions, while in Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana and Washington programs are likely to be cut substantially.
And finally, anti-choice activists are still trying to get “fetal personhood” laws on the books in several states. Guttmacher notes:
Abortion opponents have used two distinct strategies to establish fetal personhood this year. The first is patterned after a ballot initiative defeated in Colorado in November 2008 that would have amended the state constitution to confer personhood on a fetus at the moment of conception, setting the stage to ban abortion and even most contraception. Legislators introduced similar measures in six states this year; although none was enacted, bills were approved by one legislative chamber in Montana and North Dakota. The second approach builds on a 2005 South Dakota law that requires a provider to inform a woman, as part of state-mandated abortion counseling, that the procedure “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Legislators in four states introduced similar measures this year, and one new law was enacted in North Dakota.
While it’s encouraging that legislatures are rejecting attempts to define personhood at the moment of conception, it’s disheartening that women in North and South Dakota are subjected to such biased, inaccurate counseling when seeking abortion services. Thanks to the Guttmacher Institute for keeping an eye on trends in reproductive health legislation.