Although Congress draws most of the nation's attention when it passes laws affecting issues such as life, abortion, and religious freedom, the new year also brings with it a raft of state laws that took effect January 1. Many of those laws cover topics of interest to Christians, including abortion, ultrasounds, assisted suicide, and religious freedom. Here's a sampling of the gains and losses for pro-family, pro-life Christians from around the country.
Arizona - abortion question
Arizona now requires doctors and abortionists to ask abortion-minded women why they wish to end their pregnancies. The law is designed to protect women who have been subjected to sexual abuse or trafficking. The phenomenon of coerced abortion in the U.S. is very real. According to one study in the Annals of Health Law, about 55% of women who are victims of sex trafficking have had one abortion.
Kansas - telemedicine abortions
Kansas was set on January 1 to join 17 other states in prohibiting telemedicine abortions when a state judge, on December 31, issued an injunction blocking the law from taking effect. Telemedicine abortion, involving the ingestion of pills designed to induce abortion, do not even require the presence of the woman's doctor, who could be miles away or even in a nearby state. In addition to the killing of the child, chemical abortions can cause serious problems for the mother.
Tennessee - ultrasounds
A new law in the Volunteer State is designed to both inform women about the child they are carrying, as well as to obtain data for the state as to when the preborn child's heartbeat can be discerned. Although the law does not require ultrasounds prior to an abortion, it does require that if they are done, the images must be offered to the mother and a report sent to the state as to whether a heartbeat had been detected. The law is based on the premise that abortion-minded women will tend to change their minds when they see an ultrasound of their child's beating heart.
Hawaii - assisted suicide
As of January 1, Hawaii became the sixth state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize physician assisted suicide. Euphemistically titled "medical aid in dying," these bills are not only ethically and morally problematic, but prone to abuse and coercion. Healthcare providers in Hawaii aren't enthusiastic about the law, predicted to result in 40 to 70 patients per year seeking to end their lives.
Washington State - religious conscience, abortion and contraceptives, private health plans
A new law this year requires private health plans provided by Washington employers to their employees to: (a) provide coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and; (b) if the health plan covers maternity care, it must also cover and provide for abortion. There are absolutely no religious or conscience objections granted, so the law will force churches, religious organizations and other for-profit and nonprofit entities to choose whether to: compromise their beliefs and provide the mandated coverage; provide no healthcare coverage (if they are small enough to avoid Obamacare's requirements); close their doors; or move to another state.
Because this law has been passed by a state, rather than the federal government, it is not prohibited or restricted by the religious freedom victories won by Hobby Lobby and others at the Supreme Court in 2014, which involved a similar federal regulation resulting from the federal law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare.