Legislation and Executive Policies

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Comstock Laws 1873:
These state and federal laws defined contraceptive information and materials as obscene and forbade their dissemination throughout the U.S.

o 1971: Most provisions of these laws are repealed by Congress.
o 1983: The last of these laws is struck down by the Supreme Court.

Hyde Amendments (1970s):
This is a series of legislation that barred federal funding for abortion.

Title X of the Public Health Services Act (1970):
Title X is the nation’s major family planning program whose mission is to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. It does this by providing contraceptives and other reproductive health service to low-income women in programs like Medicare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the Maternal and Child Health and Social Services block grants

Title XIX (1965):
An amendment to the Social Security Act which established the Medicaid program. Under this program, states may treat family planning as a reimbursable service.

Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) (1981):
Also know as the “chastity law.” This law provided funding for abstinence-only or chastity education in order to “promote self-discipline and other prudent approaches” to adolescent sex. This law was challenged by the ACLU on the grounds of separation of church and state and that this law imposed the values of the Christian right into public schools.

“The Squeal Rule” (1982):
This was an administrative regulation issued by the Reagan administration requiring that clinics funded by Title X notify parents when teen are issued prescription contraceptive. This is overturned in three different federal district courts and two circuit courts.

Mexico City Policy (1984):
This is an executive order banning U.S. government financial assistance to U.S. and foreign family planning agencies that "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations." It was announced by the Reagan Administration at the 1984 United Nations Population Conference in Mexico City. These organizations will receive no funding even for non-abortion activities in different countries. This policy has since been known as the. A number of international organizations like International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities refused to conform and all U.S. government funding was cut off. However, in response the European Union, UK, Sweden, and Switzerland increased funding to compensate. Under President Clinton, the ban was suspended but it was reinstated and expanded to include all population organization during the Bush administration.

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The Kemp/Kasten Amendment (1985):
This legislation expands the Mexico Policy so that U.S. population-assistance funds to "any organization or program which, as determined by the President, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

FDA Import Bulletin (1987):
This bulletin banned the importation of RU 486 until the Clinton Administration.

The Gag Rule (1987):
Prohibits Title X clinics from in counseling a client about abortion even if specifically asked or the lack of information would jeopardize her health. Under the Clinton administration, this policy is reversed but it is reinstated under President Bush.

Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE Act) (1994):
This Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The Access Act authorizes the Attorney General to seek injunctive relief, statutory or compensatory damages, and civil penalties against individuals who engage in conduct that violates the Act.

Communications Decency Act (1996):
This act is Title V of the Telecommunication Act of 1996. The primary goal of this act was to regulate internet pornography. However, the act was worded vaguely enough that sexual and reproductive health information could be banned. Within a year and a half, the Supreme Court had overturned large portions of the law including the ones that could be interpreted in that way.

Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act (1996):
This provision creates a multi-million dollar fund for abstinence-only educational programs. States are required to match the amount provided by federal government for these programs.

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Decision (2000):
This decision stated that exclusion of prescription contraceptives from employee health plans was illegal sex discrimination.

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003:
This law banned the late-term abortion procedure known as “partial birth abortion.” Under the law this procedure was defined as “an abortion in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery.” This language is vague enough that numerous other common methods of abortion that are used in all terms like D&C, D&E, and the vacuum process. These processes are some of the most frequency used, safest, and simplest procedures which are most likely to reserve the fertility of the woman. Also, this law contains no clause permitting the procedure in cases where the women’s health necessitates it. For this reason, it was repeated vetoed during the Clinton administration and a similar Nebraska law was struck down by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000). Immediately following the passage of the law, federal judges in San Francisco, New York and Lincoln, Nebraska received cases challenging it. On June 2, 2004, the San Francisco court struck down the law on the grounds of unconstitutionally vague language, undue burden on the woman, and the lack of a provision protecting the woman’s health only life. The New York and Nebraska courts later also declared the law unconstitutional. The cases are currently in the appeals process.

Unborn Victims Act (2004):
This law is also known as Laci and Connor’s Law after Lacy Peterson and her unborn son Connor. It defines a violent attack on a pregnant woman to be two crimes: one for her and one for the unborn child. This law specifically exempts doctors and or mothers in actions related to abortions. This is seen by many as the first step towards granting an unborn child or fetus personhood and eventually banning abortion as murder. Courts have repeatedly struck down similar state statutes

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) (2004):
This act is a rider on an omnibus appropriations law. It will allow a broad range of health care entities, religious and secular, to refuse to provide pregnant women with all of their health service options—even in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life—and to refuse to comply with a wide array of federal, state, and local requirements to provide such services.

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Last Updated 12/17/04
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