States defy Roe and pass abortion bans

Blog / April 15, 2019

Anti-abortion groups have seized on what they view as a key moment to advance their agenda in an unprecedented way and have been pushing legislation that brings restricting abortion to an entirely new level. Their ultimate goal?: Ignite a legal dispute through fetal heartbeat bills and abortion bans that could will lead to the anti-choice Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. 

We all know that Trump has remade the Supreme Court, but since he’s taken office, Trump has also appointed conservative judges at an alarming rate to Federal Courts across the country. To date, five of the country’s 12 circuit courts have 25% or more Trump appointed judges. There are currently 130 District Court vacancies left that Trump could potentially fill in the next two years. Here’s what’s happening:


The Domestic Gag Rule

The “domestic gag rule” will defund Title IX providers who offer live-saving reproductive healthcare while also banning providers from referring patients for abortion services. This dangerous policy will disproportionately impact people living in lower-socioeconomic communities.


The rise of “fetal heartbeat” legislation

In the last year, multiple states have passed fetal heartbeat bills that would make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion once a heartbeat can be detected through an abdominal ultrasound — which typically occurs around six weeks. What’s really being detected is more akin to a pulse – and it usually happens before a person even knows they are pregnant.  

So far, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, North Dakota, and Ohio have passed fetal heartbeat bills, in direct violation of current federal law under Roe. In fact, courts have blocked similar legislation in Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota from taking effect (for now) because such fetal heartbeat bans were found to be unconstitutional. Georgia is set to become the sixth state to pass fetal heartbeat legislation once Governor Kemp signs the bill into law. However, the world has gotten far more dangerous for women living in states like Georgia which already has one of the highest maternal death rates in the country. This legislation will also make it even harder to access abortion in states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, and North Dakota–all states in which there is only one abortion clinic.

There are thirteen cases regarding access to abortion in circuit courts around the country, making them one step closer to the Supreme Court and a potential ruling to overturn Roe

Florida, Missouri, Tennesseeand Texas are considering similar measures. Unbelievably, Alabama is actually considering a bill, H.B.314, that would make abortion a felony at any point in a person’s pregnancy, regardless of rape or incest. Under H.B.314, the only exception will be for serious health conditions.  


Which states have “trigger” laws?

Currently, multiple states have trigger laws in effect that would immediately restrict abortion if the Supreme Court were to make a ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. These include:

Alabama Arizona
Arkansas Iowa
Louisiana Michigan
Mississippi New Mexico
North Dakota Oklahoma
Rhode Island South Dakota
Texas West Virginia
Wisconsin Utah


Though they do not currently have legislation passed, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio have expressed the intent to ban abortion if Roe was overturned.


How else are states restricting abortion?

States are also seeking to restrict abortion by increasing the requirements for doctors who can perform the procedures. Louisiana passed legislation that would result in the closing of all but one abortion clinic statewide, leaving one doctor to provide services for over 10,000 women. This measure was blocked by the Supreme Court.

States also use state-mandated counseling, waiting periods, parental involvement, physician and hospital requirements, funding restrictions, and permission for insurance companies and providers to refuse abortion to restrict women’s access to reproductive care.


Some states, like NY, are fighting back

To ensure protections, if Roe is overturned, nine states have passed legislation ensuring that abortion is permitted prior to viability or when a woman’s health or life is in danger. So far, one state has codified the right to abortion without state interference. In New York, the Reproductive Health Act was signed into law in January to ensure the protections of Roe v. Wade are a permanent part of New York State law, regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court. Given the rising attacks on abortion rights nationwide, it’s important that other states ensure these protections are included in their laws, too.