Several U.S. states have taken steps to curb abortion rights in the past few months as conservatives and anti-abortion rights groups attempt to force the Supreme Court to re-examine the matter after the state’s Supreme Court shifted to the right.
Earlier this month, Alabama’s governor signed the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. Legislation prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances, including rape and incest. The only exception to the ban are cases where a woman’s health is seriously at risk.
Other restrictive bans have been issued in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio, among others. Rights groups have challenged or vowed to challenge most laws in court.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organization, 27 abortion bans were passed in 12 states in 2019.
In addition, the organization reported that between January 1 and May 31, 479 abortion restrictions were enacted in 33 states, representing more than a third of the 1,271 abortion restrictions enacted since the 1973 Roe v Wade judgment, which the Abortion was legalized.
“2019 will be the year anti-abortion politicians make it clear that their ultimate agenda is to immediately ban abortion at any point in pregnancy for any reason,” wrote Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute earlier this year.
Nash said the restrictions and bans are part of a “long-term strategy” to bring the cases to the Supreme Court.
Which states recently passed abortion bans?
Alabama law would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a criminal offense, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for an abortion provider. The only exception is when a woman’s health is seriously at risk.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit earlier this month to block the law before it goes into effect in November.
In March, the Republican governor of Arkansas signed a measure banning most abortions 18 weeks after a woman is pregnant. The ban includes exemptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. The state had banned abortions as early as 20 weeks after pregnancy. The ACLU has vowed to challenge the law in court.
The state has also passed a “trigger” law that would automatically trigger an abortion ban if Roe v Wade is lifted.
Earlier this month, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill on “heartbeat,” a law that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can happen as early as six weeks after conception – before many women know they are pregnant.
The measure makes exceptions for rape and incest – if the woman files a police report first – and to save the mother’s life. It would also make abortions possible if a fetus is determined to be non-viable due to serious medical problems.
The ACLU plans to challenge the measure in court.
After the ACLU filed a lawsuit, a Kentucky judge blocked enforcement of the state’s Heartbeat Act, which seeks to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat occurs.
A 2018 abortion law was struck down by a federal judge earlier this month. It would have stopped a common second trimester procedure to end pregnancies. The state governor has vowed to appeal.
Kentucky also recently passed a trigger bill.
The Louisiana governor announced that he will sign a bill this month banning abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards became the first Democrat that year to sign an abortion ban when a heartbeat was detected, giving the measure non-partisanship. The law’s sponsor, Senator John Milkovich, is also a Democrat.
If a new Mississippi law survives a legal challenge, it will be next to impossible for most pregnant women to get an abortion there.
As in Kentucky’s law, Mississippi law seeks to ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It’s slated to go into effect July 1, but the state’s only abortion clinic and the Center for Reproductive Rights have asked a federal judge to block it.
Mississippi already mandates a 24-hour wait between face-to-face consultations, which means women must make at least two trips to their clinic, often long distances.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson recently signed a bill banning abortions from the eighth week of pregnancy with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Under the law, which goes into effect Aug. 28, doctors violating the eight-week limit could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancy cannot be prosecuted. A legal challenge is expected, although it is unclear when this could occur.
The measure includes exemptions for medical emergencies, e.g. B. if there is a risk of death or permanent bodily harm to “an important body function of the pregnant woman”.
The state also moved to close the state’s only abortion clinic. Planned parenting, which operates the St. Louis clinic, sued Missouri after state health officials said the clinic’s license was in jeopardy because they could not interview seven of their doctors about “potentially poor practices,” court documents showed.
Planned Parenthood said Missouri “armed” the licensing process.
Just hours before the clinic license expired, a judge issued an injunction to ensure the facility can continue to perform abortions.
The clinic’s license “does not expire and remains in force” until a decision is made at the request of the planned parenthood for a permanent disposition, the decision says. A hearing is scheduled for June 4th.
The governor of North Dakota signed a bill last month That makes it a crime for a doctor performing a second trimester abortion to use instruments such as clamps, scissors, and forceps to remove the fetus from the womb.
Except in emergencies, doctors performing the procedure would be charged with a crime that can be punished with a prison term of up to five years and a fine of $ 10,000. The measure said the woman who had the abortion would not bring charges.
The law would go into effect if a federal appeals court or US Supreme Court allowed it to be enforced.
This year the governor also signed a measure To do this, abortion providers must tell women undergoing drug-related abortions that if they change their minds, they may still have a live birth. The reversal method is controversial and has not been medically accepted. Other states have taken similar measures.
After years of debate, this year the Ohio governor also signed a heartbeat bill banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The ACLU has vowed to challenge the measure in court.
Other “trigger” laws
Besides Kentucky and Arkansas also Tennessee passed a trigger law this year. Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota already had similar trip laws on the books.
What is expected in other states?
South Carolina is halfway through passing a fetal heartbeat bill.
Other states, including Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and West Virginia, are also considering restricting abortion.
Why now? Will the challenges make it to the Supreme Court?
Politicians behind the bans across the country have made it clear that their aim is to instigate legal challenges in hopes of finally overturning Roe v Wade’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
Activists and legal experts on both sides of the debate, however, agree that a Supreme Court decision on such a crucial case is unlikely anytime soon.
The bans could have difficulty reaching the Supreme Court in particular, as Roe established a clear right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
“The lower courts will find these laws unconstitutional because the Supreme Court is demanding this result,” Hillary Schneller, attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Associated Press.
However, some federal appeals courts across the country, such as the 5th Circuit, which covers Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, are viewed as more conservative with the addition of Trump appointees.
If even one circuit breaks with Roe v Wade and keeps a heartbeat, it could be enough for the Supreme Court to take up the problem, said Justin Dyer, professor of political science at the University of Missouri.
Alternatively, the Supreme Court could agree to hear one of several less comprehensive measures against abortion rights. Some would tighten restrictions on clinics; others try to ban certain categories of abortion.
What will happen at the Supreme Court is far from clear. Legal experts aren’t sure what impact Trump-appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh could have or where Chief Justice John Roberts stands on Roe v Wade.
Are there more abortions now?
The renewed challenges stem from the steady decline in the number of abortions performed in the United States, since it peaked at 1.6 million in 1990.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, the most recent number of 50 states in 2014 was 926,000.