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Context of '2009: States Enact Variety of Laws Expanding Reproductive Rights'

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The US Supreme Court, ruling in the case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, gives states significant rights to regulate or constrain the availability of abortions. The ruling splits the Court in a 5-4 vote. The case allows states to restrict the use of public money, medical personnel, or facilities in performing abortions. It upholds a Missouri law that restricts the use of state funds, facilities, and employees in performing, counseling, or assisting with abortions. It adds restrictions to rights previously thought upheld and granted by the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (see January 22, 1973). The Missouri law holds that “the life of each human being begins at conception” and “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being,” assumptions specifically not granted under federal laws and court decisions. The opinion is written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and joined by Justices Byron “Whizzer” White and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Antonin Scalia form the majority vote with concurrent opinions; in his opinion, Scalia lambasts the other justices for not overturning Roe in its entirety. Justice Harry Blackmun joins Justices William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, and John Paul Stevens in dissenting from the majority verdict. Blackmun writes that the decision can be interpreted to overturn Roe entirely, and writes, “I fear for the future… a chill wind blows.” [Oyez, 1989; Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (No. 88-605), 7/3/1989; FindLaw, 7/3/1989; CBS News, 4/19/2007]

Entity Tags: John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall, US Supreme Court, Byron White, William Rehnquist

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

During the year, a number of states enact over 77 laws and other measures that affect reproductive rights, a sharp upturn from the 33 enacted in 2008. Some of these laws restrict reproductive rights (see 2009), others protect and enhance them. Some of the latter are as follows:
bullet California, Iowa, and Minnesota refuse to enact cuts in funding family planning programs.
bullet Colorado, in a move designed to protect contraceptive services from state restrictions on abortion, adopts a law formally defining contraception as any method used to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
bullet Georgia and Wisconsin expand Medicaid recipients’ access to contraception, joining 19 other states with similar mandates.
bullet Hawaii and North Carolina enact laws requiring that sex education provided in public schools be medically accurate and include a discussion of contraception; in all, 17 states require inclusion of contraception in sex education curricula. North Carolina also mandates abstinence-only education and a discussion of sexually transmitted diseases.
bullet Illinois, North Dakota, Utah, and Vermont expand access to STI (sexually transmitted infections) treatment and prevention.
bullet Oregon enacts a new law to reduce the incidence of HPV (human papillomavirus) infections, joining five other states with such legal mandates.
bullet Utah and Virginia adopt laws designed to expand access to emergency contraception to women who have been sexually assaulted. In all, 12 states have similar provisions.
bullet Wisconsin passes a law requiring private insurance plans to cover contraceptive services and supplies under most circumstances; 27 states mandate similar coverage. [Guttmacher Institute, 1/2010]

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

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