Editor's Note: With 21 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Maine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!
In a surprising turn-around, the most recent Senate polls in Missouri put Republican Todd Akin ahead of his Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill by a four-point margin. While Akin lost significant ground after his "legitimate rape" comments, pollsters suggest that both candidates struggle with likeability amongst undecided voters. Could it be that Akin's extreme stances on abortion in the case of rape have taken hold in the Show-Me State?
If Obamacare comes up in Tuesday’s Town Hall presidential debate, Romney would be well-advised to look closely at numbers just released in a St. Louis-based academic study before criticizing mandates like contraception coverage.
A Washington University study published last week demonstrating conclusively that access to birth control — at no cost to women — led to a significant decrease in unplanned and, especially, teen pregnancies. The study, which tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, showed a difference of 6.3 births per 1000 teens in the study versus 34 per 1000, the national average. The study also showed that women participating sought abortions at an annual rate of 6 per 1000, whereas the St. Louis region overall has a rate closer to 17 per 1000. The abortion rate in the city dropped over the period of the study, 2008 to 2010, while the rate in the state remained unchanged. The national average is 20 per 1000.
Just before this study was released, the state of Missouri’s Department of Insurance sued insurance giant Aetna for providing contraception and elective birth control coverage. They won their $1.5 million suit because Missouri has a “decade old contraception coverage law” and a newer religious exemptions law which, according to Department of Insurance director John M. Huff, the Department “will be enforcing...anywhere we see violations.” The 1983 law in question prohibits insurance providers from covering abortion and requires an additional premium be paid if coverage is offered.
Aetna also violated the seeming derivative of a 2001 law which states insurers “may” offer plans that do not include contraceptive coverage if an employer feels it violates their moral or religious beliefs. The new derivative bill, passed two weeks before the DOI sued Aetna, requires insurance companies to provide these exemptions when requested, rather than offering them the option (“may” vs. “shall”). Democratic Governor Jay Nixon had vetoed the bill, but was overridden by the legislature. Aetna will now pay the fine and “stop issuing health-insurance policies that violate Missouri law.” The state is currently facing a lawsuit from a women’s labor group on gender discrimination charges, not to mention the law running counter to the Affordable Care Act.
Nixon has previously stood aside in the face of fierce opposition, in 2011 allowing a prohibition on late-term abortions to pass without his signature. The bill, which provides an exemption only to preserve the “physical life and health” of the mother, out-restricts a 1974 law which provided a general “life and health” exemption and removes the possibility of mental health considerations. In 2010, Nixon allowed an ultrasound, in-person consultation, and 24-hour waiting period bill to slide through without his signature. Also in 2010, Missouri also added to its books that abortion providers must give women state-directed information including the phrase: “The life of each human being begins at conception.”
These are only the latest developments in Missouri’s decades-long legacy of restricting reproductive rights. Missouri had a Personhood law on the books in 1986, defunded Planned Parenthood in the ‘90s, eliminated its family planning program the same decade, and won an abortion rights and parental consent case in the Supreme Court in 1989.
On top of this all, Republican Todd Akin, now infamous for his “legitimate rape” and “terrorist” comments, has refused to step down from his Senate race against incumbent Claire McCaskill despite being asked to do so by state- and national-level Republican Party leaders, including both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, super PAC American Crossroads, radio host Sean Hannity, and others. Former Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has Akin’s back, saying Republicans have a “moral responsibility” to back Akin else lose control of the Senate.
Despite the recent poll bump, when it comes to money, it’s not looking good for Akin. While Akin's campaign says they have raised $1 million over the internet after the rape comment, McCaskill’s campaign reported $5.8 million from fundraising. And Akin's recent four-point lead flies in the face of the last few polls conducted in Missouri, which put McCaskill ahead by 4.4 points in the Huffington Post’s conglomerate polls at the time of writing (some pollsters report her lead up to six points as of early October).