With Roe’s Demise, Abortion Will Soon Be Banned Across Much of Red America

From a Washington Post story by Caroline Kitchener headlined “With Roe’s demise, abortion will soon be banned across much of red America”:

The tremors from Friday’s sweeping Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade will ripple across the country almost immediately, with roughly half of all states poised to ban or drastically restrict abortion.

Thirteen states will outlaw abortion within 30 days with “trigger bans” that were designed to take effect as soon as Roe was overturned. These laws make an exception for cases where the mother’s life is in danger, but most do not include exceptions for rape or incest.

In many states, trigger bans will activate as soon as a designated state official certifies the decision, which Republican lawmakers expect to happen within minutes.

“They just need to acknowledge, ‘Yes, this has occurred,’ ” said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert (R), who has championed much of his state’s antiabortion legislation, including its trigger ban. “I’ll be happy to see the butcher mill in Little Rock, Arkansas, shut down for good.”

When the decision came down shortly after 10 a.m. Eastern time, many of the clinics in trigger-ban states were filled with patients scheduled to receive abortion care. Administrators had to confront busy waiting rooms and inform patients that they could no longer legally perform the procedure, distributing lists of out-of-state clinics hundreds of miles away, aware that many of their patients will not be able to travel that far.

Once all the trigger laws take effect, patients in Texas will have to drive an average of 542 miles to reach the nearest abortion clinic, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization. For patients in Louisiana, the one-way trip will be 666 miles. In Mississippi, 495 miles.

When Texas banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy last fall, a large portion of patients were able to get out of the state, with support from a nationwide network of abortion rights advocates who helped them pay for gas, hotels and child care. But in the next few months, as funds dry up and clinics in Democrat-led states are overwhelmed, fewer patients will have access to that option, said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, communications director of Trust Women, a network of clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma.

In a post-Roe America, he said, the typical patient “will be one who never shows up to any appointment, that never makes it to a clinic, never calls a clinic, never calls a fund.”

“Those are the people who are going to become emblematic of this next phase,” Gingrich-Gaylord said.

Before Roe v. Wade, hundreds of thousands of people obtained abortions illegally every year, with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 1.2 million. Experts estimate that hundreds of women died from complications annually.

Nearly 50 years later, many abortion rights advocates say abortions will be far easier — and safer — to obtain illegally. Aid Access, an Austrian-based organization run by Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts, mails abortion pills to all 50 states, including over a dozen states that have banned abortion by mail. Their orders from Texas increased by over 1000 percent when the state enacted its six-week ban.

More states are expected to ban or restrict abortion over the coming weeks and months. Five states without trigger bans have other recent laws on the books that would ban most abortions and have been blocked by the courts, which lawmakers will likely move to activate as soon as possible. While most state legislatures have adjourned for the year, several governors in Republican-led states have signaled their interest in reconvening to pass additional antiabortion legislation if the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Across much of the country, the future of abortion access is uncertain. Midterm election results could affect whether abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, states with Republican-led legislatures and Democratic governors who support abortion rights.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she is “holding up the wall.”

“The only thing keeping Michigan a pro-choice state right now is the threat of my veto,” she said. “Had the outcome of the 2018 election been different, Michigan would have already gone the way of Texas.”

Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics are doing what they can to accommodate as many patients as possible. In southern Illinois, where approximately 14,000 out-of-state patients are now expected to seek abortion care every year, the organization has created a flagship call center program that books appointments for traveling patients, and helps them cover the cost of their trip.

Some abortion providers have already left states with trigger bans to provide abortion care elsewhere, while others are firming up plans to do the same.

In Fargo, N.D., Tammi Kromenaker has found a new location for Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, where a trigger ban will take effect within 30 days. The clinic will move across the river, to Moorhead, Minn., a state with abortion protections in place.

She hopes to make the move within a month, so Red River never has to close.

Kromenaker has anticipated for years that she might have to make this move.

“It’s part of the reason we’re in Fargo,” she said.

Legislatures in Democrat-led states have been making their own preparations. Throughout the spring, Democratic lawmakers across the country passed sweeping legislation to protect access to the procedure and allow clinics in their states to expand to meet demand. Several states did away with laws that required physicians to perform abortions, allowing clinics to rely on nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, while others instituted additional legal protections for out-of-state patients.

With Roe gone, restricting out-of-state abortions is likely to become “the next frontier” for the antiabortion movement, said David Cohen, a Drexel University law professor who studies abortion legislation.

A Republican lawmaker in Missouri proposed legislation earlier this year that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident access abortion outside of the state, using the novel legal strategy behind the Texas abortion ban, which empowers private citizens to enforce the law through civil litigation.

“If your neighboring state doesn’t have pro-life protections, it minimizes the ability to protect the unborn in your state,” said Missouri state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), who introduced the bill.

With Roe overturned, Coleman said, she hopes to see abortion banned across the country.

Caroline Kitchener is a national political reporter, covering abortion, at The Washington Post. She is the author of “Post Grad: Five Women and Their First Year Out of College.”

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