Mississippi's proposition 26, an amendment to the state's constitution that would essentially ban abortions by declaring that human life begins at the moment in which an egg is fertilized, has brought to light various states' attempts to enact bills aiming to restrict abortion.
Approximately 900 pieces of legislation dealing with reproductive rights have been proposed throughout the states this year, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Of those, about 600 have been anti-choice bills aiming to reduce access to abortion services by imposing waiting periods, banning insurance coverage for the procedures, or creating gestational bans.
The effort to restrict abortion services has not been restricted to the states. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the controversial Protect Life Act, which was called the Let Women Die act by some liberal critics because of a provision in the legislation allowing hospitals to turn away women seeking life-saving abortions if the institution is morally opposed to performing the procedure.
Personhood bills and amendments have been proposed in several states, according to the Personhood USA Web site. Although personhood legislation was rejected twice in Colorado, the North Dakota House passed The Defense of Human Life Act -- defining a human being as an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development -- and another personhood bill was advanced by an Iowa House subcommittee.
Personhood legislation has also been introduced in South Dakota, Georgia, Texas, Montana and Oklahoma.
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Personhood Amendment Goal Is Clear: Reduce Abortion Access
These bills are an enormous overreach by the legislatures in many states to reduce a woman's access [to abortion], Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel for the U.S. Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the IBTimes.
The Personhood movement is particularly invasive since its language could potentially be interpreted in a way that could ban some methods of contraception.
While most forms of birth control work by preventing ovulation and consequently, conception, some -- such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the morning-after pill -- actually prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus. Which would, according to Mississippi's proposition 26, be murder.
Some critics argue that the amendment could even be interpreted to prohibit all forms of hormonal contraception, even birth control pills.
Goldberg said the personhood amendment is demeaning to women and blatantly unconstitutional since it aims to invade women's right to privacy.
There's no question it violates a woman's constitutional rights on a number of levels, Goldberg said.
The personhood movement is not the only pro-life legislation popping up in state legislatures across the nation. The Guttmacher Institute reports that states enacted 162 new provisions related to reproductive rights in the first half of 2011 -- 80 of which restricted abortion in some way.
All of the new provisions were passed in just 19 states.
Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas adopted laws that impose waiting periods and require women seeking an abortion to receive mandatory counseling before the procedure. The South Dakota measure, which is being challenged in court, goes further than the rest, expanding the pre-abortion waiting period to 72 hours. It also requires women to visit a pregnancy crisis center in the interim and says abortion counselors must inform patients of all known risk factors possibly relating to abortion, even those that are not supported by the mainstream medical community.
Fifteen states have introduced legislation that bans abortions at and after 20 weeks unless a woman's life is in danger. The measure has passed in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Indiana and Idaho.
However, these laws seem to conflict with the Supreme Court's ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, which bars states from placing an undue burden on women seeking an abortion prior to viability, a point that occurs well past 20 weeks.
Banning Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Plans
Several states took the implementation of new health care reform laws as an opportunity to impose new abortion restrictions. Twenty-four state legislatures have considered banning abortion coverage in new health insurance exchanges; four states -- Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah and Nebraska -- have passed new laws that restrict coverage under all private health insurance plans. Meanwhile, six other states have restrictions that apply to coverage provided through health exchanges.
The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks -- before many women even realize they are pregnant. While the bill has stalled in the Senate, it has received massive grassroots support among the pro-life community.
A coalition of anti-abortion groups are preparing to push heartbeat legislation in all 50 states, according to The Associated Press, while similar legislation was also introduced on the federal level by Rep. Michele Bachmann.