Abortion Rights Take One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

A Bush-appointed judge temporarily blocked a Nebraska law requiring "mental health screenings" of abortion seekers. And Missouri's Democratic governor allowed a law requiring providers to give a detailed description of fetal development and a brochure declaring life begins at conception.

It's a topsy-turvy world, this business of legislative limitations on a woman's legal right to an abortion.

Missouri's law takes effect on August 28. Here's how the AP described it:

Missouri law already requires a woman to be told of the physical and psychological risks at least 24 hours before undergoing an abortion. The new law will require consultation in person instead of over the phone and mandate that women receive a description of the "anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child."

It also requires abortion providers to offer women the chance to view an ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat of the fetus. And they will have to supply a state-produced brochure proclaiming: "The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being."

Emphasis added. Missouri governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, didn't sign the law but didn't try to stop it, either — he basically copped out by citing a rule that says that laws can go into effect without his signature. He did the same when Missouri just became the fifth state to opt out of abortion coverage under the new health care reform law.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, which was seeking a preliminary injunction against an unprecedented law, meant to take effect today, that would require health professionals to screen women to find out whether they were pressured into having abortions, or whether they had certain risk factors that cause them to have problems after the fact.

In her ruling, Camp, Nebraska's first female judge, described the law as creating "substantial, likely insurmountable" obstacles to women seeking abortions. Right now, the blocking of the law is temporary, but according to the Omaha World Herald, "Camp found that Planned Parenthood was 'likely to succeed' in attacking the key portions of the law" more permanently.

She said the law puts abortion providers in immediate jeopardy of "crippling civil litigation," which could force them to stop practicing and cost women access to abortion.

The law, Camp wrote, provides women who come to regret their abortions with "a target to blame - a physician stripped of the usual statutory and common law defenses and made civilly liable for the most extensive damages, by way of an ‘informed consent' mandate that is either impossible to satisfy, or so vague that the physician (and a jury) are left to speculate about its meaning."

The state of Nebraska has until July 26 to file a response if the attorney general decides to press the case.

Judge Blocks Abortion Screening Law [Omaha World-Herald]
Missouri Governor Lets Abortion Law Take Effect [AP]
Missouri Fifth State To Opt Out Of Abortion Coverage In State Insurance Exchange [The Hill]