While abortion rights remained under attack in 2006, there were several notable victories at the federal and state levels that could lay the groundwork for future pro-choice legislative initiatives. The year began with the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito and continued with the introduction of sweeping abortion bans in several states, successful campaigns against restrictive state ballot initiatives, the enactment of protective measures for abortion providers, and the defeat of anti-abortion legislation on Capitol Hill. The year concluded with the fall 2006 elections, which yielded numerous victories for pro-choice candidates.
Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings commenced on January 9, 2006. Justice Alito had made no secret of his opposition to abortion and a woman's constitutional right to privacy. NAF strongly opposed Alito's nomination and supported the filibuster against his confirmation. Just days after the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Alito was confirmed by a vote of 58-42, joining Chief Justice John Roberts who was confirmed in the fall of 2005. Chief Justice Roberts was confirmed despite having argued for the reversal of Roe and stated that there was "no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution" for the reasoning behind Roe. The confirmations of these two justices to the Supreme Court galvanized anti-choice state legislators to launch direct assaults on Roe.
In 2006, fourteen states proposed broad bans on abortion in direct opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision. Anti-choice forces in Louisiana successfully enacted an abortion ban that would take effect if Roe were overturned. In South Dakota, the legislature enacted an outright challenge to Roe through a ban on all abortions in the state except to save the life of the woman. The citizens of South Dakota banded together in opposition to the ban, created the Campaign for Healthy Families, and gathered enough signatures to defer implementation of the ban pending a statewide referendum. In an exciting pro-choice victory, voters in South Dakota defeated the abortion ban by a decisive margin of 56% to 44% in the November elections.
NAF staff were on the ground in South Dakota working to defeat the ban as part of the Campaign for Healthy Families. To read about their experiences, visit our Blog Archives for October and November at: http://www.prochoice.org/blog/2006_10_01_archive.html
In 2006, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives attempted to enact a federal parental notification law that would have imposed onerous restrictions on teens seeking abortion care. The Senate passed the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA), which would have made it a federal crime for a person other than a parent to help a minor from certain states obtain an abortion in another state if the minor had not first fulfilled the parental involvement requirements of her home state.
The House of Representatives passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which included the requirements of CCPA and imposed additional harmful burdens on teens. The House-passed version also contained a provision that made doctors criminally liable for providing abortion care to a teen from another state without first notifying a parent. Despite last minute efforts, anti-choice legislators were not able to reconcile the two versions of this legislation before adjourning for the year. Pro-choice activists and legislators worked diligently to defeat this dangerous legislation and preserve teens' access to abortion care. For more information about this legislation, please read NAF's position statement at http://www.prochoice.org/policy/congress/teen_endangerment.html
Several states also put anti-choice politics ahead of the health and safety of their teens. In 2006, Utah enacted a new law to require teens to obtain both parental notice and consent before an abortion. The law includes a judicial bypass procedure for the consent provision, but no bypass for the notice requirement. Accordingly, even if a minor obtains a judicial bypass for the consent provision the physician must still notify the minor's parent before providing the abortion. Oklahoma also placed additional restrictions on teens in the state by amending their existing parental notice law to require both notice and the written consent of one parent. In a victory in Arizona, Governor Napolitano vetoed two harmful bills, one that would have made the judicial bypass process more cumbersome for minors and one that required the written parental consent to be notarized before a minor could obtain an abortion.
In November, voters in Oregon and California were asked to consider ballot initiatives mandating parental notification before a minor could obtain an abortion in each state. Oregon voters soundly defeated the measure by a margin of 55% to 44%. The California parental involvement measure was also defeated by a margin of 54% to 46%, an even larger margin than the defeat of a similar measure in 2005. To read more about these ballot initiatives, please visit http://www.prochoice.org/policy/issues/initiatives.html
As part of its so-called "American Values Agenda," Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives brought up the so-called "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act" for a last-minute vote on December 6, 2006. NAF strongly opposed this legislation, which was defeated when it failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
This ill-advised legislation sought to inappropriately interfere with the way in which doctors care for their patients, advance political agendas over sound science and medicine, and place physicians in jeopardy for providing medically responsible patient care. H.R. 6099 would have required abortion providers to inform a patient seeking a legal abortion after 20 weeks that "substantial evidence" existed that a fetus may feel pain during an abortion. HR 6099 projected a level of certainty that far exceeded the scientific research and available science failed to support the conclusions drawn by this legislation and its required statement. This legislation was strongly opposed by a broad coalition of health care providers, women's organizations, and religious groups. For more information about NAF's opposition to this bill, please visit http://www.prochoice.org/policy/congress/fetal_pain.html
Despite the defeat of this legislation at the federal level, many state legislatures have already passed similar legislation. In 2005, Arkansas, Georgia and Minnesota enacted legislation specifically requiring that women be given information about the possibility of fetal pain after 20 weeks gestation. Oklahoma enacted similar legislation in 2006 which adds information on fetal pain to the state's biased counseling materials. However, Arizona Governor Napolitano vetoed similar legislation in 2006, stating that the legislation "represents an unwarranted intrusion by politicians into the doctor-patient relationship." The widespread opposition to this type of legislation at the federal level may discourage state legislators from enacting similar bills in 2007.
In 2006, several states considered affirmative measures designed to protect reproductive health care providers and their patients from anti-choice violence and harassment. In Washington, Governor Gregoire signed a bill that prevents insurance companies from dropping policy holders who are the victims of crimes. The legislature found that this protection was necessary since "access to insurance can be imperiled by the response of insurers to criminal acts." The new law specifically protects health care facilities, individual health care providers, and religious organizations.
Two affirmative bills were also signed into law in California. The first bill extends the unique Reproductive Rights Law Enforcement Act, requiring the state to collect and analyze information on anti-reproductive rights crimes. The second bill prohibits, under specific circumstances, the online posting, sale, trade or solicitation of home addresses, phone numbers, and pictures of reproductive health care providers and their patients. These bills provide the state with essential tools in the fight against anti-choice violence and harassment.
Affirmative measures such as those enacted in California and Washington in 2006 are important examples of the type of legislation that is needed across the country to protect abortion providers and their patients. Hopefully these initiatives will encourage other states to pass similar legislation in 2007.
For more information on the history of violence and harassment against abortion providers, please visit: http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/violence/
On July 19, 2006, President Bush rejected the views of a majority of Americans when he vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810). This important legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate with strong bipartisan support, would have expanded federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research and would have lifted existing restrictions that were put in place by the Bush Administration. The President's veto was a significant setback for embryonic stem cell research, which has the potential to help find new treatments, or even cures, for those individuals suffering from degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons, ALS, and Alzheimers.
For more information, please read NAF's position statement on H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act: http://www.prochoice.org/policy/congress/stem_cell.html
At a time when we are calling upon the dedicated individuals in our Armed Forces to protect the citizens of this country against acts of terrorism, Congress refused to grant military women abroad access to safe abortion care.
As a result of an existing discriminatory ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military hospitals, service women who want to terminate a pregnancy are forced to choose between traveling back to the United States to receive care; seeking services from a local, unfamiliar health care facility; or having an unsafe back-alley abortion. In addition, service women may be forced to disclose private medical information to their commanding officers in order to obtain a leave to seek abortion care.
Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) and Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) sought to address this inequity by offering an amendment to the 2007 Defense Authorization Act. This amendment would have lifted the existing ban; however it was defeated by a vote of 191-237. It is likely that in 2007 Congress will once again address this inequity for service women abroad.
For additional information on this discriminatory policy visit: http://www.prochoice.org/policy/congress/women_military.html
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) bills impose medically unnecessary, politically motivated regulations on abortion providers that are not imposed on comparable medical facilities. In 2006, Pennsylvania passed a law making health care providers who perform more than 100 abortions a year subject to specific regulations regarding patient safety, and imposed a fee on these providers comparable to an ambulatory surgical facility. South Dakota also mandated new licensing requirements for abortion providers and authorized the state department of health to develop specific standards for these facilities. NAF worked with legislators in Indiana and Virginia who successfully defeated medically unnecessary regulations targeted directly at abortion providers in their states.
In 2006, NAF released a comprehensive report detailing the many ways Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have deceived and intimidated women. The report, titled Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice, highlights numerous instances where CPCs have harassed and given false information to women, discusses legal action taken against CPCs, their current sources of funding, and what concerned citizens can do to combat their harmful tactics.
At the federal level, NAF supported Representative Maloney's (D-NY) legislation, the "Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women's Services" Act, which would help protect women from the deceptive advertising practices of CPCs. This legislation authorized the Federal Trade Commission to regulate CPC advertising practices so they could not be confused with legitimate abortion providers or providers of abortion referrals.
In addition, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a study that found that federally funded CPCs mislead pregnant teens about the medical risks of abortion. Among the false and misleading information told to investigators, who posed as pregnant 17-year-olds, was that abortion leads to breast cancer, infertility, and mental illness.
Learn more about CPCs and read NAF's full report on CPCs on our website: http://www.prochoice.org/policy/policyreports/cpc.html
The 2006 elections yielded positive results for pro-choice candidates. The U.S. House of Representatives gained approximately 20 pro-choice legislators and the U.S. Senate gained at least three pro-choice Senators. Additionally, some of the most strident anti-choice legislators were defeated, and two did not run for re-election. Thirteen pro-choice governors were re-elected and four new pro-choice governors were elected. As already discussed in this report, each of the ballot initiatives restricting abortion in South Dakota, California and Oregon were soundly defeated. As a result of these legislative and electoral victories, we are optimistic that there will be fewer assaults on abortion in 2007 and increased opportunities for expanding much needed access to abortion care in the future.