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Doctors Become Main Target for Upcoming Abortion Bills

Abortion bills are a top priority as state legislatures around the country coming into session. In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last year overturning the constitutional right to abortion, around 300 bills in 40 states have been proposed so far, with a majority seeking to restrict access to abortion, and others trying to strengthen it, according to New York Times. While many bills won't pass, one common target is clear: doctors. At least three dozen bills are aimed at doctors and other medical personnel, with criminal or licensing penalties serving as leverage to restrict abortion access. Even bills not directly aimed at doctors still feature mechanisms to hold them accountable.

More than a dozen states already ban most abortions, and those laws would punish doctors with prison and steep fines. Because of the extensive possibilities of legal punishments, abortion providers have shut down in states with bans, and doctors and hospitals are reluctant to provide abortions until women are sick enough to qualify for exceptions that say the procedure is legal when a woman’s life is in danger. In states that enforce bans, abortion pills have become a more important alternative to surgical abortions. Pills are tougher to regulate, but pills and their providers are increasingly becoming targets of legislation and litigation. A suit filed by anti-abortion groups in federal court in Texas is seeking to overturn federal approval of a key abortion drug. In Iowa, where abortion is currently legal until 22 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, a new bill would make it a felony for doctors or anyone else to distribute abortion pills, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill would not penalize women who take or obtain the pills. Despite this, abortion rights advocates are guardedly optimistic that several states with Democratic legislatures will preserve or strengthen executive orders signed by current or previous governors, making it harder for future elected officials to change abortion laws if political dynamics change. In Hawaii, one bill would allow physician assistants to perform abortions. Another would shield doctors and patients from out-of-state subpoenas relating to reproductive health and preclude doctors who perform abortions from losing their medical licenses.


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