These 7 States Have Some Major Abortion Bills In The Works, So Here's What To Know
The fight for reproductive rights is becoming one of the most heated debates among the public in the United States. While pro-choice advocates are fighting against new measures attempting to limit abortion rights, these seven states' abortion bills could prove to be some huge obstacles. Want to know more? Here's a rundown.
According to a March 2019 report from reproductive health group Planned Parenthood, over 250 bills restricting abortion have been filed by state legislatures among 41 states from 2018 to the first quarter of 2019, and more are being introduced every day. These measures vary in their restrictions. Although the right to an abortion is guaranteed at the federal level, states still have the right to regulate access — and in some states, the regulations being introduced are so strict that they would make abortion de facto inaccessible.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade deemed abortion a constitutional right accessible to all Americans. However, states are allowed to implement their own regulations on abortion access, provided it doesn't cause an unconstitutional "undue burden." Unfortunately, what counts as "undue" isn't always clear. Reproductive rights have been contested throughout history, but certain measures have gained significant traction in the country since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, including what are known as targeted regulation of abortion provider laws (TRAP laws), which often impose costly regulations on abortion clinics and providers in an effort to shut clinics down, or regulations that make access to abortion impossible to access in practice.
The Trump administration has openly talked about their support in restricting reproductive rights for individuals, particularly abortion access. During the 2019 State of the Union on Feb. 5, President Trump called to restrict abortion by prohibiting people from receiving abortions later in pregnancy. He said,
To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.
So, what states are introducing measures to limit abortion rights? Here's a list of some of the major ones you should know about.
On April 13, USA Today reported that Ohio has passed Senate Bill 23, which would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected by a physician, usually six weeks into pregnancy. However, most people are unaware of pregnancy at this point, meaning many would not even know of their pregnancy until the abortion deadline had passed. The bill passed by Ohio's House of Representatives with a 56-40 vote on April 9, and Ohio Gov. Mark DeWine signed the bill into law on April 11. However, this bill will not only impact patients seeking reproductive care, but will also hit abortion providers as well.
According to The Cleveland Enquirer, physicians could face up to a fifth-degree felony if they perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected, resulting in year in prison or $20,000 fine. So, even if providers are willing to do a procedure, the law could tie their hands.
Another so called "heartbeat" bill: on Friday, March 29, the Georgia legislature passed HB481, also known as the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act. This measure will prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected by a physician, except in cases of rape and incest. According to The New York Times, fetal heartbeats are usually detected within six weeks of pregnancy, a time that most people are unaware that they are pregnant.
The bill has been supported by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who has until May 12 to either sign or veto the measure. However, on March 29, Kemp took to Twitter on March 29 to applaud lawmakers' decision to pass HB481. Kemp wrote,
Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state. I thank these lawmakers for their leadership and applaud their undeniable courage. #gapol
This kind of six-week abortion ban has gained traction among numerous states within the United States, and could represent a step in prohibiting abortion all together in those regions.
In recent years, Texas has made numerous attempts to restrict abortion for residents, such as House Bill 214 introduced in December 2017, which limited insurance coverage for abortions and the state's current ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, as of April 10, a lawmaker in the state is attempting to reintroduce a measure that not only could limit reproductive rights, but punish women in the most severe way. On April 10, The Hill reported that a Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Tony Tinderholt reintroduced a 2017 bill that would criminalize abortion all-together, and even make it so pregnant people could be charged with homicide if they had an abortion, which carries a possible death penalty in Texas.
This represents the first time in the state's history that lawmakers will debate a bill would hold a pregnant person criminally responsible for having an abortion. The measure has been the subject of extreme controversy among Texas residents and reproductive rights activists. While extreme, the measure is unlikely to pass, as even anti-abortion leaders lean away from punishing a pregnant person for getting an abortion. While Tinderholt has openly spoken in favor of this bill, it has yet to be passed by state legislature. So, that's something at least.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, Arkansas became the fifth state along with Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Louisiana, to pass a "trigger" law, which would automatically make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned, except in cases where the mother might be in danger. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the bill into law on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
So, seeing as Roe v. Wade is a federal law, which supersedes state law, if the landmark decision was taken away, then abortion would be criminalized. Therefore, both patients and abortion providers could face huge penalties if a procedure was done.
Arkansas already also has a number of abortion restrictions that prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require a 48-hour waiting period before having a procedure.
On Thursday, March 21, Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2116 into law, which prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks. By signing the legislation, physicians were forced to call patients cancel abortion appointments that were scheduled.
In March 2018, Gov. Bryant initially introduced a measure that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy, which was temporarily blocked by a United States judge in November 2018. However, Mississippi lawmakers filed an appeal in December 2018 to revive the restrictive bill. However, with the increase in six-week abortion bans, Mississippi became one of the latest states to pass this extreme measure.
On Wednesday, Feb. 27, Missouri passed a number of abortion restrictions that will prohibit women from obtaining an abortion early in pregnancy. The legislature not only passed a fetal heartbeat measure, but also introduced a "trigger law," which would make abortion automatically illegal should Roe v. Wade be overturned. The bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and is now heading to Senate, which is held by Republicans, where it's likely to pass.
Missouri currently has a 72-hour waiting period, which means that individuals must wait three days before receiving an abortion. According to NPR, there is only one abortion clinic in the state of Missouri as of October 2018, which is the Columbia Health Center in central Missouri.
On April 9, Louisiana lawmakers introduced SB184, a bill which will prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. While fetal heartbeat bills have been popping up across the country, what makes Louisiana's bill unique is that it was proposed by Democratic Sen. John Milkovich. This bill would make an exception in cases where the mother's life was in danger, but not in cases of rape or incest, according to Refinery29. Unsurprisingly, it is being hotly contested by pro-choice advocates.
So there you have it. While a number of other abortion restrictions have been introduced and blocked by the Supreme Court, quite a few have already passed. One thing is for sure, the fight for reproductive rights is far from over.