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Abortion, LGBTQ Rights and More: A Roundup of Controversial Red State Actions


Republican-led states across the country have enacted a series of new restrictions on abortion, the rights of LGBTQ and transgender youth, and the discussion of critical race theory.

Here’s a look at some of the legislation passed this session, where the bills are coming from, and what’s under consideration. The flurry of activity at the state level comes ahead of a much-anticipated US Supreme Court ruling, expected later this year, that could have major implications for abortion.

Oklahoma – The GOP-controlled legislature passed an abortion ban on Tuesday, making exceptions only for medical emergencies. This would make abortion or attempted abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, a $100,000 fine, or both. The legislation would not provide for exceptions in cases of rape and incest. And after: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to sign the bill.

Idaho — Republican Gov. Brad Little signed a bill modeled after Texas law that bans abortions after embryonic or fetal heart activity is detected, making Idaho the first state to follow the controversial Texas law that allows private citizens to enforce the restrictions through lawsuits. And after: Abortion providers are filing a lawsuit, asking the Idaho Supreme Court to strike down the law before it takes effect April 22.

Arizona – Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in certain medical emergencies – becoming the first state this year to enact a ban after 15 weeks, following a similar law passed by Mississippi in 2018 which the US Supreme Court looks set to uphold this year. The bill does not offer any exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

Kentucky – The majority GOP Legislature approved a sweeping bill that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, restrict access to medical abortion and make it harder for a minor to get an abortion in the state . And after: The bill has been sent to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, although it is unclear how he will act. Beshear could choose to sign the bill or allow the legislation to become law without signing it. If he were to veto the bill, however, Republicans have the majority to easily replace him. He has until Monday to act.

South Dakota – Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed legislation March 23 that will further restrict access to medical abortions in the state. The law makes South Dakota one of the toughest places in the country to obtain abortion drugs, requiring pregnant women to visit a clinic at least three times to obtain abortion drugs. The measure, however, will not take effect immediately due to litigation. And after: The law will only go into effect if the judge’s injunction is lifted, which the Noem administration is seeking on appeal.

Florida – Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation March 28 banning certain instructions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, approving a controversial measure that opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. HB 1557, titled the Parental Rights in Education Bill, was passed by Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature last month. And after: Two LGBTQ rights groups, along with students, parents and a teacher in Florida, filed a federal lawsuit last Thursday challenging the new law and seeking to block its implementation and enforcement. The law is due to come into effect in July.

Ohio — Two Republican state officials introduced a bill Monday to the state legislature that would prohibit the teaching or provision of “any curriculum or instructional materials about sexual orientation or gender identity” to students in kindergarten through third grade, using language similar to Florida law critics named “Don’t Say Gay”. If passed, the measure would also prohibit Ohio public school educators in grades four through 12 from teaching or using “educational materials about the sexual orientation or gender identity of a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards. ” And after: Awaiting votes at the State House.

Texas – State began investigating families seeking gender-affirming care for their transgender minor children after Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton said the treatment was “child abuse” . Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to begin investigations. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the parents of a transgender girl and an appeals court upheld a temporary injunction blocking the action. And after: Paxton has asked the state Supreme Court to intervene to allow child abuse investigations.

Arizona — Ducey signed two bills targeting transgender youth in the state, banning trans girls and women from competing on girls’ and women’s sports teams and restricting youth’s access to gender-affirming care. And after: ACLU pledged to continue to block the law restricting gender-affirming care.

Oklahoma – Stitt signed a law banning transgender women and girls from competing on gender-conforming sports teams in public schools, public charter schools and public colleges in the state.

Iowa – Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed legislation banning transgender women and girls from participating in gender-conforming sports teams at accredited schools and colleges.

South Dakota – Noem signed a law banning transgender women and girls from competing on gender-conforming sports teams at accredited schools and colleges.

South Dakota — Noem on Tuesday signed an executive order restricting the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools after the state’s Senate Education Committee killed a bill that would have achieved a similar goal . Noem also signed legislation this session blocking mandatory Critical Race Theory training and orientation at colleges across the state.

Georgia – The state Legislature this week approved a bill that would limit discussions of race in classrooms and ban schools from advocating “dividing concepts,” including a discussion that people “should feel anguish, guilt or any other form of psychological distress” about their race and that “the United States of America is fundamentally racist”. The bill would also allow the Georgia High School Association to bar transgender students from participating in girls’ sports at public high schools. And after: The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for signature.

Ohio – A bill introduced Friday reflecting criticism of the Florida law dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would also ban the program for all years that teaches, promotes or endorses what it calls ‘dividing or inherently racist concepts’ . This would ban any textbooks, teaching materials or academic programs that “promote” concepts such as critical race theory; intersectional theory; The 1619 Project; inherited racial guilt; diversity, equity and inclusion learning outcomes; inherited racial guilt; or “any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist.” And after: The bill awaits a vote in the State House.

Florida – The Republican-controlled Florida House passed a voting overhaul bill that would create a security office to investigate election crimes and increase penalties for violations of state election laws. The legislation would establish a scaled-down version of an election police force first proposed last year by DeSantis. And after: The invoice will be sent to the DeSantis office for signature.

Georgia – State lawmakers passed a bill on the last day of session Monday that would give new election-policing powers to the state’s Bureau of Investigation. Georgia becomes the second state after Florida to pass an election police force bill this year, as Republicans continue to falsely claim the 2020 election was plagued by voter fraud. And after: The invoice awaits Kemp’s signature. He has 40 days to sign the legislation or veto it.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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