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December 6, 2014

Reproductive Justice Update

Anti-choice advocates in Alabama are trying to stop the reopening of the only abortion clinic in the northern area of the state by claiming that the clinic is too close to a building being turned into a school. Advocates are demanding buffer zones between abortion clinics and schools that are the same distance as those for sex offenders. This effort comes after the clinic was forced to close because of state requirements that it comply with ambulatory surgical center standards similar to those in hospitals. In addition to these hurdles, women seeking an abortion in Alabama face a 48-hour waiting period, a mandatory ultrasound, and biased counseling.

A so-called religious protection amendment proposed by Texas State Sen. Donna Campbell (R) seeks to alter the state constitution by broadening the grounds for religious refusals. The amendment would override the state’s existing law that prohibits the government from imposing a “substantial burden” on an individual’s exercise of religion. Campbell’s bill deletes the word “substantial,” which would open the door to a host of challenges, even when the burden is minimal. Ironically, the bill could unintentionally provide grounds for a woman to claim the religious right to an abortion. When presented with this option, Campbell said that she was “unfamiliar with any religious doctrine that supports the right to abortion.”

Immediately following passage of Amendment 1 in Tennessee, State Rep. Rick Womick (R) introduced a bill to restrict abortion rights. The proposed legislation would force women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. If a woman refused to look at the screen during the procedure, she would be forced to listen to a description of the embryo or fetus.

Legislators in Ohio are furiously attempting to pass a “heartbeat ban” bill during the lame-duck session. The anti-abortion bill would criminalize abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—usually around six weeks into a pregnancy and a point so early that a woman may be unaware she is pregnant.

A bill is scheduled to be introduced in Missouri in January that would require annual inspections of abortion clinics by state health officials. Only one abortion clinic—Planned Parenthood—currently exists in the state.

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