Dozens of bills are advancing through statehouses nationwide that would put an array of new obstacles - legal, financial and psychological - in the paths of women seeking abortions. The tactics vary: mandatory sonograms and anti-abortion counseling, sweeping limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. To abortion-rights activists, they add up to the biggest political threat since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide. What's different this year is not the raw number of anti-abortion bills, but the fact that many of the toughest, most substantive measures have a good chance of passage due to gains by conservative Republicans in last year's legislative and gubernatorial elections.
In a number of states, lawmakers are considering bills that would ban elective abortions after 20 or 21 weeks of pregnancy. These measures are modeled after a law approved last year in Nebraska
that was based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks. The Idaho
Senate approved one such bill Wednesday, sending it to the House, while a similar bill won final legislative approval in the Kansas
Senate. The same type of measure is pending in Oklahoma
, there's been a hearing on an even tougher measure that would outlaw abortions after the first medically detectable heartbeat - as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. In Texas
, a bill passed by the House would require that pregnant women have an opportunity to view a sonogram image, hear the fetal heartbeat and listen to a doctor describe the fetus.
In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortion
. In Utah
, one such measures - affecting both private and public plans - has cleared both legislative chambers and been sent to Gov. Gary Herbert.
is a prime battleground. With a new Republican governor, Rick Scott, who touts his anti-abortion beliefs, conservative lawmakers have introduced at least 18 bills on the topic - including proposals to require ultrasound and to ban most insurance coverage of abortion. A different tactic is being tried in Virginia
, where lawmakers last month passed a bill requiring abortion clinics to be regulated on the same basis as hospitals. Abortion-rights group said this could entail higher costs and force several clinics to close.