What’s Happening With Abortion Laws Across the Country

From a New York Times story by Sophie Kasakove headlined “What’s Happening With Abortion Legislation Across the Country”:

With the Supreme Court appearing poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade case that has guaranteed the right to abortion in the United States for decades, a cascade of restrictive abortion legislation has been proposed in Republican-led states.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed into law a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, severely restricting access to the procedure. The new law, which takes effect on July 1, is modeled after a similar abortion ban in Mississippi that the Supreme Court seems set to uphold.

It contains exceptions only in cases where an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Also in recent weeks, lawmakers in Kentucky overturned the governor’s veto of a measure restricting abortions after 15 weeks and prohibiting providers from offering abortions until they can meet certain requirements. The Kentucky law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on April 21.

And in Oklahoma, the Legislature has approved a bill prohibiting abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that could sharply reduce abortion access not only for women in the state but for those who have been crossing its borders to work around increasingly strict anti-abortion laws across the South.

The bill is modeled on one that took effect in Texas in September. It bans abortion after cardiac fetal activity, generally around six weeks of pregnancy, and requires enforcement by civilians, allowing them to sue any doctor who performs or induces the abortion, or anyone who “aids or abets” one. The bill incentivizes lawsuits by offering rewards of at least $10,000 for those that are successful.

Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, a Republican, had also signed a law last month that outlaws abortion entirely except to save the life of a pregnant woman “in a medical emergency,” and makes the procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Here are answers to some common questions about the legislation nationwide.

Abortion bans have been introduced in 31 states this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Bans have passed at least one legislative chamber in seven states: Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia. They have been enacted in six of those states: Florida, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming.

“What we’re seeing right now is the buildup of decades where state legislatures have been adopting restriction after restriction, and now they’re moving to adopt ban after ban,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute. She said the legislation reflected the efforts of increasingly conservative state legislatures moving to take advantage of rightward shifts in the courts.

Several states already have so-called trigger bans, which will make abortion illegal if Roe is overturned or scaled back. All of the legislation proposed so far is likely to be enacted, Ms. Nash said. But some efforts may face court challenges: In Idaho, for example, an abortion ban modeled on that of Texas was set to take effect on April 22, but was temporarily blocked by the Idaho Supreme Court on Friday. Planned Parenthood said on Tuesday that it would “challenge any abortion ban enacted in Oklahoma.”

Even as they pass more far-reaching bans, states have not let up passing other restrictions, including waiting periods and parental consent laws. On Tuesday, a judge in Florida allowed a 24-hour waiting period that abortion rights groups had spent seven years attempting to block.

With Roe v. Wade’s future unclear, many states are pushing legislation that protects the right to an abortion. Some 30 states and the District of Columbia are considering measures that protect and expand access to abortion, according to Ms. Nash. Laws that protect the right to an abortion already exist in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia.

Some states have gone further: Lawmakers in Vermont voted in February to move forward on an amendment to the State Constitution that would guarantee the right to an abortion.

In Connecticut, lawmakers approved a bill that would expand the field of people who can perform certain types of abortions beyond doctors, to include nurse-midwives, physician assistants and other medical professionals.

And in what lawmakers said could be a model for other states seeking to safeguard abortion rights, the Connecticut law would also shield abortion providers and patients from lawsuits initiated by states that have banned or plan to ban abortion, even outside their own borders. Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, has said he intends to sign the bill.

A sweeping package of bills in California seeks to make the state a “refuge” for women seeking abortions. The bills would make it easier for clients to access abortion services and for providers to be paid.

A proposal released late last year with the backing of Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of California’s two legislative chambers calls for increasing funding for abortion providers, reducing administrative barriers to accessing abortions and strengthening legal protections for abortion patients. In March, Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, signed legislation to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortion services.

A “near-total” ban typically refers to a law that restricts abortions except in cases when a patient’s life is in danger, said Ms. Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. Lawmakers are considering two major types of near-total bans. One is a ban modeled on Texas’, which deputizes private citizens to bring a lawsuit against anyone who performs an abortion or “aids and abets” a procedure. The Texas law bars abortions once cardiac activity is detected in the embryo; such activity typically occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy, before many are even aware they are pregnant.

Other states are considering 15-week bans. These do not constitute “near-total” bans but are still a significant rollback of Roe, which protects the right to an abortion until a fetus is viable outside the womb, usually considered around 23 weeks.

According to a 2017 census of abortion providers conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, the largest state share of abortions were performed in California, at 15.4 percent. The second-highest share were performed in New York State, with 12.2 percent. The third-highest state was Florida with 8.2 percent.

Those are three of the four most-populated states, along with Texas.

Abortion bans apply to both surgical abortions and to medical abortions, which are done using a two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. Medical abortions accounted for over half of all abortions in the United States in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Additional bans on the use of medical abortion pills have been proposed in at least eight states this year and have passed at least one chamber in both South Dakota and Wyoming. Bans on the delivery of medical abortion pills have been proposed in at least seven states this year, and passed at least one chamber in both Georgia and Kentucky.

Sophie Kasakove is a 2021-2022 reporting fellow for the Times National desk.

Speak Your Mind