With Roe in Doubt, States Act on Abortion Limits and Expansions

SALT LAKE CITY — It didn’t take long for abortion to re-emerge as a flashpoint in state legislatures.

Less than a month into the 2022 legislative sessions, battles over the future of abortion are already unfolding around the United States. Republican lawmakers are proposing new restrictions inspired by Texas and Mississippi laws that present a direct challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade, while some Democratic-led states are working to preserve or expand access.

Activity in state legislatures was anticipated after the United States Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, signaled that it was prepared to make seismic changes to the nation’s abortion law that has existed for nearly 10 years. ‘a half-century. If the court completely overturns Roe v. Wade, the decision of whether or not to keep abortion legal would be up to the states.

More than 20 states already have laws in place to ban or severely restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is canceled. As legislative sessions begin, many are considering new bans.

“This could be a really, really dramatic year in terms of people’s ability to access abortion care and decide if, when and how they become parents,” said Kristin Ford, vice president of communications and outreach. at NARAL Pro-Choice America. , an abortion rights advocacy group. “By this time next year, we could be looking at a scenario in which more than half the country has lost access to abortion…It will have consequences for everyone.”

Against this backdrop, California lawmakers will consider becoming a “sanctuary” for those seeking reproductive care this year. This could include payment of travel, accommodation and procedural costs for people coming from other states.

“We face an all-out assault on reproductive freedom in America. There are powerful forces working tirelessly to push us back. But here in California, we’re not going to back down,” Congresswoman Cottie Petrie-Norris said, as state lawmakers proposed eight bills on Thursday. “We will continue to fight for reproductive freedom.”

Susan Arnall, outreach director for the Anti-Abortion Right to Life League, said other Democratic-led states are likely to follow California’s lead. His organization is fighting against the legislation introduced in the country’s most populous state.

Even so, she said abortion opponents have taken over in the United States.

“Life wins…and the abortion industry loses,” Arnall said.

Other Democratic-leaning states aren’t copying California yet, though New Jersey recently became the 15th state to protect abortion rights in state law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank. on abortion rights. Vermont could move toward enshrining “reproductive autonomy” in its constitution this year. In Michigan, abortion rights groups are calling for an amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution.

Meanwhile, at least seven states could follow Texas, which has already effectively banned abortions after six weeks with a law strategically crafted to avoid a challenge in federal court. The Supreme Court allowed the law to remain in effect, even though it appears to contradict the Roe decision.

Similar proposals have been introduced in Ohio, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida and Arizona. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, released a proposal inspired by Texas law on Friday. She said it would “ensure that unborn children and their mothers are protected in South Dakota.”

Other states that already have six-week bans on the books could also change those measures to more closely resemble Texas law so they can go into effect, said Katie Glenn, government affairs adviser at Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group.

The Texas law is unusual because it allows private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who helps someone else get an abortion after six weeks. This has made legal challenges difficult because the government is not involved in law enforcement.

More than a dozen states have passed six-week abortion bans but have seen those efforts blocked by the courts. This made the Texas model more attractive to conservative lawmakers.

“Our message to lawmakers is, ‘Full steam ahead.’ If you feel like something might not be worth doing because it might be banned or you’re concerned about it, this is a great opportunity for state lawmakers to let the Supreme Court: ‘We have this,'” Glenn said.

Meanwhile, at least three Republican-led states — Arizona, Florida and West Virginia — are considering banning the procedure after 15 weeks, similar to the Mississippi law the Supreme Court has seemed see favorably during the pleadings in December. Under Roe, abortions are legal until a fetus can survive outside the womb, which is usually around 24 weeks.

In Florida, which currently allows abortions up to this point, GOP legislative leaders are optimistic about a proposal to ban it after 15 weeks, with some health-related exceptions, but none for rape and sexual assault. incest.

“There are a lot of pro-life laws. We’re going to welcome him,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters earlier this month. He is up for re-election this year and is considered one of the top Republican presidential hopefuls for 2024.

In another major change last year, the Food and Drug Administration made a regulatory change that allows people to access abortion medication by mail after getting a prescription online. This promises to be another front in the legal debate over abortion. Some states might allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense the drugs if they object to abortion.

Last year, eight states passed measures restricting the mailing of abortion drugs in anticipation of the FDA’s decision. A handful of states, including Republican-led Iowa, will debate bills on the subject this year, said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute.

Last year was the “worst year for abortion rights” since the Roe ruling in 1973, Nash said, with more than 100 restrictions enacted across states.

“It just feels like the 2022 state sessions are going to be very active on abortion restrictions as well,” she said. “It feels like we’re at the start of another wave.”

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