In 2005, women in many states will have limited or no access to abortion. Advocates expect multiple states will enact laws severely restricting access to abortion and that clinics will continue to be harassed. Laws restricting abortion may take the form of a mandatory waiting period before a woman can receive an abortion, restricting minors' access to abortions, and outlawing abortion outright. While these restrictions may be proposed in many states, those states with a history of enacting anti-choice legislation are poised to go even further.
In Georgia, for the first time in 130 years, Republicans control both the legislature and the Governor's mansion. Republicans in the Georgia Legislature are promising a faster, more substantive legislative session with a primary focus on reducing the size of the government. "Keep it simple. Make very few rules, but follow all of them. Our mantra has been less government. And we're going to have to live up to our mantra," said Representative Mark Burkhalter of Alpharetta (R), who occupies a leadership position in the Georgia House.1
Despite this pledge to limit the scope of government and pass fewer pieces of legislation, Republicans in Georgia are vowing to pass two bills to satisfy religious conservatives: a bill mandating a 24-hour waiting period for abortion and a bill declaring the public display of the Ten Commandments is legal.
In South Dakota, Governor Mike Rounds (R) has said that if legislation is passed to make abortion illegal in his state, he will sign it despite the fact that such laws have been declared unconstitutional. Governor Rounds states, "I'd like to see Roe v. Wade repealed. I'd like to get legislation in place that could successfully challenge Roe v. Wade and make good law."2
In 2004, legislation banning abortion passed the South Dakota House, but died in the Senate by one vote. Several legislators have expressed interest in reintroducing the legislation. In discussions of the upcoming 2005 legislative session, Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) said, "I'd like to see no more little South Dakota kids getting killed. I think [abortion] is the worst civil rights issue our country faces today."3
Pro-choice advocates in South Dakota say that even if the procedure is outlawed, the need for abortion will never go away. "That's just not going to happen. It never has in the history of the world, but I think we can do a lot to prevent unplanned pregnancies ... by making emergency contraceptives available, by providing better education for young people, by making birth control accessible to young people in this state affordable. We can do a lot more," said Kate Looby from Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota.4
In Mississippi, the legislative work to restrict abortion may in fact be done. The state has the most restrictive abortion laws in the country including a mandatory 24 hour waiting period, the nation's farthest reaching conscience clause, and a parental permission requirement for minors repealing abortion According to Pat Catrette, executive director of Pro-Life Mississippi, her organization no longer has a list of abortion laws it wishes to pass, all of their priorities have become law.5
In fact, only one abortion clinic remains open: the Jackson Women's Health Organization. Despite these restrictive laws and constant protestors, the clinic does not expect to close. According to Betty Thompson a consultant for the Jackson Women's Health Organization, "We're just going to have to fight each time. As long as were in compliance with the laws, I think we'll be able to function." She explains that no matter how many restrictions the state imposes, women will continue to have abortions: "A young woman who's made up her mind to have an abortion will find a way to pay for it. She'll sell whatever she has at a pawn shop, steal, prostitute herself. She'll run in here- not walk, but run."6
According to Bill Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS, "If the era before Roe v. Wade has taught us nothing else, it is that outlawing abortion does not mean that women will stop having abortions. Women must be able to access safe, legal abortion without having their rights curtailed by legislators or clinic protestors who know nothing about their lives or decisions."
- Jim Galloway, "2005 Legislative Session: GOP: 'Keep It Simple," Atlanta Journal Constitution, 9 January 2005.
- "Rounds Says He Would Sign Law Making Abortion Illegal," Aberdeen News, 2 January 2005.
- David Crary, "Mississippi Leads the Way in Restricting Abortions," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 28 December 2004.