Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

States begin push to challenge Roe v. Wade

Vol. 36 No. 05 June/July 2019
Planned Parenthood                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

It’s been a busy spring for states that are taking action to restrict (or expand) access to abortion.

Several states, such as Ohio and Georgia, have passed bills that ban abortion once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. Others have been even more strict, including Alabama, which recently passed the strictest abortion law in the country, banning the procedure with few exceptions.

Several other states are considering “trigger” laws that would go into effect to ban abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

But some states, such as New York and Illinois, are trying to strengthen the abortion rights laws already on the books.

A big part of the reason these new bills have come up recently is that the antiabortionists hope they can force the Supreme Court, now with a solid conservative majority, to take up (and overturn) Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to abortion in 1973.

So far in 2019, dozens of states have put forth legislation related to abortion. Here’s a roundup of where those states stand on the topic:

Alabama

Gov. Kay Ivey in May signed into law the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, which makes it a felony for Alabama doctors to perform or attempt to perform an abortion. The law has not taken effect, and the ACLU and Planned Parenthood announced a legal challenge.

Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill in March that bans abortions after 18 weeks into pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. The state also passed a law in February that would automatically make abortion illegal in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade were overturned. The law was expected to take effect in May, but the ACLU said it would sue.

Delaware

Two anti-abortion bills were introduced in January — one would ban abortions after 20 weeks, while the other would require women to view an ultrasound before they get an abortion. Neither bill made it out of the House Health and Human Development Committee.

Florida

A “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban died in a Senate committee in January. Another bill would require minors to get notarized, written consent from a parent or legal guardian to get an abortion. The bill passed the state House but died in a Senate committee.

Georgia

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a “heartbeat” bill in May that would ban abortions by six weeks of pregnancy. The ACLU said it plans to challenge the law in court. The state currently bans abortions after the 20-week mark. The bill would take effect next year unless it’s blocked in court.

Idaho

A bill was proposed in January that would seek to make abortion murder and end its exemption from the state’s current murder laws. The bill would repeal part of the existing state code that protects women getting abortions, as well as their doctors, from getting charged with murder.

Illinois

In February, a bill was introduced that would create a fundamental right to abortion in the state. Under the proposed law, there would be no restrictions on getting an abortion, and a woman could get an abortion at any time during her pregnancy for any reason. The bill is still in a House committee.

Indiana

The Supreme Court in May agreed to a compromise on a restrictive Indiana abortion law that keeps the issue off its docket, at least temporarily. The court said a part of the law dealing with disposal of the “remains” of an abortion could go into effect. But it did not take up a part of the law stricken by lower courts that prohibited abortions because tests revealed an abnormality. The court indicated it would wait for other courts to weigh in before taking up that issue.

In April, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed two other abortion-related measures, both of which limit access to the procedure. One law prohibits dilation and evacuation abortions, a common method used in second-trimester abortions. The law takes effect July 1, but the ACLU said it will sue.

The other would give more medical professionals the option to choose not to perform abortions or take part in abortion-inducing care.

Kentucky

Gov. Matt Bevin signed legislation in March banning abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy. A federal judge stopped the law from going into effect while it’s being challenged in court by the ACLU.

Also, a 2018 abortion law was struck down by a federal judge earlier this month. It would have halted a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. Bevin has vowed to appeal.

Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a “fetal heartbeat” bill  in May. The Louisiana House is also set to vote on a measure that would ask voters statewide if they want to add a line to the state’s Constitution saying it does not provide for abortions or abortion funding.

Massachusetts

A bill proposed in January is being considered to expand abortion access, allowing for abortions after 24 weeks. It was referred to a state Senate committee.

Minnesota

In March, a Minnesota Senate committee advanced a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in the cases of risk or danger to the pregnant woman. The legislation has stalled there.

Mississippi

Gov. Phil Bryant in March signed a bill banning abortions in the state once a fetus has a detectable “heartbeat.” The law was challenged in court by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Judge Carlton Reeves said it “smacks of defiance” and blocked it from going into effect on July 1.

Missouri

Gov. Mike Parson in May signed a bill banning abortion in the state at the eight-week mark in a pregnancy. The law takes effect Aug. 28, but legal challenges are expected.

Montana

Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a “born alive” bill that would require a fetus born alive after an abortion procedure to be treated as a legal person. Lawmakers also considered multiple laws restricting abortion in 2019, including a “heartbeat” bill and a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

New Mexico

The state Senate upheld an existing law making an abortion a felony, a law that would apply if the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

New York

In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that protects access to abortion even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The law decriminalizes abortion and allows some late-term abortions in cases where the fetus is not viable or when necessary to protect the woman’s life.

Ohio

Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law one of the country’s most stringent abortion laws in April, banning abortion once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. The law will take effect in July unless it is blocked in court. The law is currently being challenged in court by the ACLU.

Utah

Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill in March banning abortions after 18 weeks. A federal judge blocked the state from enforcing the law while it’s being challenged in court by the ACLU and the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. The law creates criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy.

North Dakota

Gov. Doug Burgum in April signed into law a measure that outlaws a second trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. In addition, abortion rights advocates are considering filing a lawsuit over a law that would require a clinic to read a script about reversing medical abortions.

Pennsylvania

House lawmakers approved in May a measure that would bar abortions solely because of a possible Down syndrome diagnosis. Aborting a baby based on its sex is already outlawed in the state. The bill has an exception permitting women to get abortions in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the woman. It was sent to the Senate.

Rhode Island

The state House passed a bill in March that would guarantee abortion rights in the state, but it was voted down by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators have vowed to attach the bill to other legislation.

South Carolina

Gov. Henry McMaster has said he will sign a bill that would ban abortions at six weeks. The bill passed the state House but was not taken up by the Senate before the legislative session adjourned for the year.

Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee in May signed a so-called “trigger” law that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade is altered or overturned.

Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign an abortion bill that would punish any doctor who failed to treat a fetus that survived an abortion procedure.

The Texas Senate also passed a bill eliminating exceptions for the state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks. The bill is currently under consideration in the state House.

Vermont

Gov. Phil Scott is expected not to veto a bill making abortion a “fundamental right.” The bill, approved by both the House and Senate, would “recognize as a fundamental right the freedom of reproductive choice” and “prohibit public entities from interfering with or restricting the right of an individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.

Wisconsin

Gov. Tony Evers said he will veto abortion restrictions the state Assembly passed in May. One of the bills was the so-called “born alive measure,” which requires abortion providers to give care to fetuses who survive abortion attempts. Doctors would reportedly face prison time if they did not provide necessary medical care.