Monday, January 14, 2013

Abortion/Contraception Laws: AL, AK, AZ, AR

Yesterday I posted NARAL's pro-choice report card of the United States, in which the country as a whole received a D. Which didn't surprise me, but did surprise Elena-Maria of Wiccan Fusion. Her comment made me realize that I do get page views from outside of the U.S. and those visitors probably don't know what's been happening here in regards to anti-choice laws. So in the next three days I'm going to go state by state and give a basic summary of the anti-choice laws.

As an overall view, yes, we still have Roe v. Wade at the federal level, meaning abortion is legal. Women have the right to an abortion. At the state level, governments have been putting in restrictions left and right "for the health of the mother." They're saying women can still get abortions, so long as abortion clinics obey new and extremely restrictive, hard-to-follow laws. Several states have had personhood amendments introduced (and thankfully defeated) that would have given fertilized eggs full rights as citizens, thereby making abortion murder. A personhood amendment has even been re-introduced at the Federal level by none other than Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president last year.

The Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare) requires that companies provide insurance plans that offer contraception with no co-pay. There are exceptions for religious organizations like churches, whose sole purpose is a religious one, but none for companies headed by religious people, such as craft store Hobby Lobby. They did come up with a compromise, in that if the company won't pay for the contraception, the insurance company will foot the bill, but that's not enough for some employers who continue to cry that it's against their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby has reportedly stated that they will pay the fines (up to 1.3 million US dollars A DAY) rather than provide contraception coverage for their employees. Meanwhile, most companies still don't offer paid maternity leave, and still cover viagra in their insurance plans. (I don't know the details of Hobby Lobby's insurance or maternity leave.)

Federal funds are prohibited from being used for abortion; so non-profits like Planned Parenthood, that provide a huge amount of women's health services, very carefully do their accounting so none of their federal funding pays for their abortion services. Only about 3% of what they do is abortions; the rest are contraception services, mammograms, pap smears, cancer screenings. Nonetheless, conservative-run states have been trying to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it means giving up federal funds. Texas successfully defunded PP this year in their state, foregoing federal funding for their other womens' health programs to do it.

Today we'll go over the laws for four states, after the break.

(Follow the links for complete text on NARAL's website, I'm just summarizing.)

Alabama - #38 - F
93% of Alabama counties have no abortion provider.
First things first, there is an unenforceable blanket ban on abortion in Alabama, from the days before Roe v. Wade. It was never taken off the books. They do ban abortion after 20 weeks. They have another unenforceable ban on abortion as early as 12 weeks; unenforceable because there's no exception for a woman's health. The 20 week ban includes a provision allowing abortion to save the life of the mother.

Counseling and Counseling Restrictions
The Alabama Office of Women's Health may not advocate for or promote abortion. Before getting an abortion, the mother must listen to a doctor tell her details about her fetus; approximate age, estimated anatomical and physiological characteristics, whether it's viable or not. She must receive, 24 hours before the procedure, in person, state-prepared materials providing lists of resources for pre-natal care and childbirth, adoption agencies, and the following statement:
 "There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you to carry your child to term, and to assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or place him or her for adoption.  The State of Alabama strongly urges you to contact those agencies before making a final decision about abortion.  The law requires that your physician or his or her agent give you the opportunity to call agencies like these before you undergo an abortion."

Insurance Prohibitions
Health-insurance policies offered in the new state exchange established under health-care reform may not include abortion coverage, with exceptions only to save a woman's life, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Restrictions on low-income women's and young women's access to Abortion
Alabama prohibits public funding for abortion for women on eligible for for state medical assistance for general health care, unless it's to save the life of the mother or the product of rape or incest. Women under the age of 18 must obtain the consent of at least 1 parent to obtain an abortion. This requirement is NOT waved in the case of rape or incest; however if the pregnancy is caused by the father figure, certified mail notification to the mother is acceptable. Requirement is NOT waved in the case of child abuse.

Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)
Alabama requires extensive things of abortion providers; the doctors must have admitting privileges at a local hospital, many of which won't give admitting privileges to out-of-state doctors. Given that the environment is so hostile to abortion providers, many of the doctors come in from out of state twice a week to do procedures. And hospitals don't like giving admitting privileges to out-of-state doctors. This condition caused a lot of protest when it was enacted. Every provider is required to perform an ultrasound before every procedure, regardless of it is actually necessary. Only doctors licensed in the state to practice medicine or osteopathy are allowed to perform abortions.

News Stories
A heartbreaking article about clinic escorts in Alabama

Alaska - #14 - B+
82% of Alaska counties have no abortion provider.
Unenforceable ban on abortion at 12 weeks.

Again, a woman may not receive an abortion until she has received information on the procedure and risks of the procedure; the materials are posted online rather than handed to her in person. However, the materials did include the now-disproved link between abortion and breast cancer. After protest by Alaskan doctors, that has been removed.

Alaska also has laws about parental consent for minors, allowing people to refuse to perform abortions, and TRAP laws, but they've all been ruled unconstitutional so I'm not going to go into them here. You can find them on NARAL's site if you're interested.

73% of Arizona counties have no abortion provider.
Unenforceable blanket ban on abortion.
Ban on abortion after 20 weeks; counted not from fertilization, but from last gestational period, meaning this is likely an actual ban after 18 weeks. 
Ban on second trimester abortion with no exception for a woman's health.

Again requires a 24 hour delay between receiving a state-approved packet of information and actually obtaining an abortion. Family planning services provided by the state cannot include abortion or abortion counseling. Courts upheld the 24 hour delay, but did not require the information be handed to the woman in person, which would have required two trips, like Alabama requires.

University facilities and facilities under a "health service district" program may not perform abortions or contract out abortion services.

"No hospitals, pharmacies, medical facilities, or health-care professionals, or employees of hospitals, pharmacies, medical facilities, or health-care professionals, who object in writing, may be required to participate in or facilitate medical or surgical procedures that result in an abortion. In addition, no hospital may be required to admit a woman for the purpose of providing abortion care."
This includes Plan B!

Required notarized parental consent. There are, however, exceptions for rape, incest, and child abuse. Parents or guardian of the minor can sue the doctor is parental consent is not obtained.

There are TRAP laws in Arizona, but they are still under consideration by the courts. More information here.
97% of Arkansas counties have no abortion provider.
Unconstitutional, unenforceable blanket ban on abortion.

Prior to the day of the abortion, the woman must listen to a state-approved lecture on abortion procedures and risks. It also includes a list of resources for pre-natal care, adoption, the standard packet. The woman must be offered the chance to view the fetus on ultrasound, and put a signed acceptance or refusal form in her medical record for three years. State-approved materials include large glossy photographs of fetuses at various ages. State funds cannot go to abortion counseling.

Insurance Prohibitions
Certain state employee plans prohibit abortion with only an exception for the mother's life being in danger. 
Another lawsuit based on Amendment 68  sought to prohibit Pulaski County from continuing to offer employee health-insurance coverage for abortion in cases of rape and incest.  The county changed insurance policies and now provides coverage only for abortion in cases of life endangerment.  The lawsuit was then dismissed.
Someone sued them because the covered abortion in the cases of rape and incest. SERIOUSLY?! What is wrong with people!?

Blanket law allowing anyone to refuse to perform abortion-related services. Including offering Plan B. There have also been reports of pharmacists refusing to fill normal birth-control prescriptions under this clause.

Restriction on Low Income Women's and Young Women's Access to Abortion
Prohibits public funding for abortion; conflicts with federal law disallowing states from prohibiting abortion under Medicaid. Unenforceable. 
Parental consent required for a minor; except in cases of incest, if she signs an affidavit saying she only has one living parent and that parent raped her. No exception for child abuse. Consenting parent must consent in person, and show ID.

Extensive TRAP laws. In addition, Arkansas' state constitution states: 
"The policy of Arkansas is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution."
I intended to do ten states today, but these four have pissed me off enough. I'm stepping away from this issue for a bit; I will try to get a few more states up tomorrow. I'll continue until I've gotten through all fifty.

The rest of the series:
NARAL's Report Card
Part 1: This post
Part 2: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware
Part 3: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho
Part 4: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas
Part 5: Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland
Part 6: Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi


  1. Holy shit! I can't even believe it.

    "Women under the age of 18 must obtain the consent of at least 1 parent to obtain an abortion."

    Is it her body or not?
    I've heard abortion is a delicate matter over there in the States, but I had no idea it was... like this.

    What happened to free will? Myself I decided years and years ago that I won't bear any children; there are enough if them in this world so my boyfriend and I are planning to adopt when the time is right.

    I have never understood the attitude against abortion. I've never had one but I can imagine it is hard. Hard enough without people all up in your face telling you how wrong and egoistic you are for even considering it.
    That's one of the reasons I will alwas be pro-abortion.

    Fridens liljor!

    1. I've never had an abortion; there's a time in my life where I would have had one had it been necessary. Now I probably would not. But it needs to be an option. The amount of shaming that goes on if you want an abortion here is horrid. It's not like women just decide to go get abortion on a whim. Making women sit through lectures, and in some cases visit counselors giving obviously biased advice - counselors who aren't medically certified in the least - when it's already a hard decision, well - it's evil. The only abortion clinic in Mississippi is going to have to shut down because they couldn't get admitting privileges to local hospitals by the deadline. TRAP laws are shutting them down. The ONLY CLINIC IN THE STATE. It's just enraging.

      I'll get more states up here in the coming days; some of them, like Oregon and Maryland, aren't bad at all. Mississippi is probably the worst.