Colorado, Illinois, Maryland Take Action On Abortion

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The following highlights recent state actions on legislation related to abortion, emergency contraction and sex education.

  • Colorado: A three-person Initiative Title Setting Review Boardlast week rejected arguments that a ballot proposal to define a fetusas a person is misleading or a violation of the state's single-subjectrequirement, the Denver Post reports (Draper, Denver Post, 8/2). The proposal also would extend to fetuses rights and protections under the state constitution. The group Colorado for Equal Rights,which is advocating for the proposal, must collect more than 76,000signatures to put the measure on the statewide ballot. The amendmentdefines the "term 'person' to include any human being from the momentof fertilization as 'person' is used in those provisions of theColorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality ofjustice and due process of law." The board, which includes DeputySecretary of State William Hobbs, last month dismissed arguments fromattorney Kara Veitch, who represents four women involved with variousreproductive rights groups, that the measure is not a single-subjectmeasure, as required by state law. Veitch said the proposal applies tothree separate sections of the state constitution. The board said theproposal has a common theme of human rights. Abortion-rights groupswere given one week to appeal the amendment's language (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/23). Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado,said board members demonstrated that the measure is deceptive byrepeatedly referring to the subject of discussion as a fetus. Hobbssaid the board does not judge the merits of the measure, only theballot language. The board said the measure's language about personhoodis clear. The board denied a request from attorney Ed Ramey to holdanother hearing to examine whether the measure violates thesingle-subject requirement. The board now must approve the petitionwording before CER can begin collecting signatures, the Post reports (Denver Post, 8/2).
  • Illinois:U.S. District Judge Jeanne Scott last week issued a ruling that upholdsthe right of Illinois pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergencycontraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours ofsexual intercourse, the Peoria Journal Star reports. Scott's ruling goes against a 2005 rule that requires pharmacists to dispense EC (Peoria Journal Star,8/3). Under the rule -- which was proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D)and approved in August 2005 by the Illinois Joint Committee onAdministrative Rules -- state pharmacies are required to dispense EC ifthey stock any FDA-approvedcontraceptive or risk losing their licenses. If any prescribedcontraceptive is out of stock, pharmacies must provide an alternative,order the drug, make arrangements for another local pharmacy to fillthe order or return the prescription to the customer. The rule allowspharmacies to opt not to sell any contraceptives (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/11/06). In the case, Scott denied a request by Wal-Martto dismiss a lawsuit filed by pharmacist Ethan Vandersand, a formerWal-Mart pharmacist who was placed on unpaid leave after refusing tofill a prescription for EC in February 2006. Vandersand in the suit,which seeks lost pay and unspecified monetary damages, claimed that hewas legally protected by the Illinois Health Care Right of ConscienceAct when he refused to fill the EC prescription. Wal-Mart argued thatthe right-of-conscience act does not apply to pharmacists. Scott in herruling wrote that the right-of-conscience law "prohibits discriminationagainst any person for refusing to provide health care because of hisconscience" (Peoria Journal Star, 8/3).
  • Maryland:Opponents of Montgomery County, Md., sex education curriculum onThursday announced that they will appeal the curriculum in court, the Washington Post reports (de Vise, Washington Post,8/3). The curriculum teaches eighth- and 10th-grade students aboutsexual- and gender-identity issues and includes a condom demonstrationvideo. The Montgomery Board of Educationin January voted 8-0 to approve a pilot program to test the curriculum.Only students whose parents have provided written consent canparticipate in the lessons. The curriculum was tested at six schools inthe spring. A citizens' advisory committee in June asked SuperintendentJerry Weast in a memo to add five statements concerning homosexualityand same-sex attraction. Weast and his staff rejected most of theadditions, but he said teachers would be allowed to tell students thathomosexuality is not a mental illness or a disease if they ask aboutit. The groups Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Family Leader Network and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays on Feb. 7 filed a petition against implementation of the curriculum with the Maryland State Board of Education.The state education board in June in a closed session approved thecurriculum. The state board in a 17-page opinion declined to "secondguess the appropriateness" of the curriculum and said it could reversethe county board's action only if it violated the law. The state panelreviewed more than 12 claims alleging the curriculum violated the lawbut did not find any violations. Seven panel members signed the opinionand four abstained (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/11). According to the Post, the groups, led by CRC, in the appeal are seeking to reverse the state board's decision. Richard Thompson -- president of the Thomas More Law Center,which is among the groups opposed to the lessons -- called thecurriculum "outrageously hedonistic and life-threatening." BrianEdwards, a spokesperson for Montgomery County schools, said thecurriculum "provides students with important information that they needto know and teaches the concepts of tolerance and respect for allpeople regardless of their sexual orientation." CRC spokespersonMichelle Turner said she hopes that the courts would "at least put ahalt to the implementation this fall of the curriculum" (Washington Post, 8/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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