Abortion debate heats up in states as Congress deadlocks

Anti-abortion advocates have been pushing for an expanded abortion ban and tighter restrictions since the Supreme Court overturned a national right to abortion. But with debate mostly deadlocked in Washington, the focus is shifting to states convening their first full legislative sessions. Roe v. Wade Was overturned.

While some state GOP lawmakers have filed bills to ban abortion pills or make it more difficult for women to travel out-of-state for abortions, others seem divided about what their next step should be . Some are even considering measures to somewhat ease their states’ existing restrictions, especially given Republicans’ less-than-stellar showing in the 2022 midterm elections and voters’ turnout for abortion on state ballot measures. After widespread support.

Meanwhile, Democratic-led states are looking to shore up abortion protections, including Minnesota and Michigan, where Democrats won legislative majorities in November elections.

Anti-abortion groups say they aim to reverse Roe v. Wade The decision was to go back to the states, but now they are making clear that what they want is a comprehensive national abortion ban.

The “Post-Row Blueprint” from the anti-abortion group Students for Life states, “Legislation at the state and federal levels should provide the most generous protections possible for life in the womb.”

The new Republican-led House showed its anti-abortion credentials on Jan. 11, its first day of formal legislation, passing two pieces of anti-abortion legislation that are still waiting to become law with the Senate controlled by Democrats and President Joe Biden. is unlikely. in the White House.

So at the federal level, a battle is shaping up in the courts over the abortion pill mifepristone, which has been used as part of a two-drug regimen for more than two decades, and until recently has been used for most abortions in the US. The method has become are conducted.

The Biden administration has moved to make mifepristone more widely available by allowing it to be distributed by pharmacies, while also clarifying that it is legal to deliver the pills through the US mail. But the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit in Texas in November on behalf of several anti-abortion groups, alleging that the FDA did not have the authority to approve the drug in the first place.

In Texas, some lawmakers are exploring new ways to chip away at Texans’ remaining slivers of access to abortion. For example, one proposal would prevent local governments from using tax dollars to help access out-of-state abortion services, while another would block tax subsidies for businesses that allow their local employees to get out-of-state abortions. Let’s help.

If legislative leaders don’t consider them a priority, those measures could get lost in the shuffle of the state’s frantic 140-day, every-other-year session. The state’s trigger law banning nearly all abortions that took effect last year “is working very well,” said Joe Pojman, founder and executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, an anti-abortion group. In August 2022, the state recorded three abortions, up from more than 5,700 recorded during the same month a year earlier, according to the most recent state figures.

The top state House Republican said his priority is increasing support for new mothers, for example by extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.

Republican House Speaker Dede Phelan said, “This is an opportunity for the Texas House to focus more than ever on supporting mothers and children.”

South Dakota Gov. Christy Noem, a Republican, struck a similar theme in a Jan. 10 speech, saying she would consider setting up plans for nurses to visit new moms at home and state employees to help pay for adoptions. will introduce a bill to expand a program for Earlier, Noem said South Dakota needed to “focus on caring for mothers in crisis and getting them the resources they need to succeed both they and their baby.”

Some Texas GOP lawmakers indicated they may be ready to carve out exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape and incest. And a Republican lawmaker plans to try to modify South Dakota’s ban, which allows abortions to be made clear if the abortion is medically necessary.

“Part of the issue right now is that doctors and providers don’t know what that line is,” said State Representative Taylor Rehfeldt, a nurse who has experienced miscarriages and high-risk pregnancies.

Rehfelt wants to reinstate a former law that allowed abortions for pregnancies that could cause serious, irreversible physical harm to a “major bodily function.” Rehfeldt said she is also working on bills allowing abortions for people who have non-viable fetuses, or who have become pregnant after rape or incest.

Some anti-abortion activists in Georgia are pushing lawmakers to go beyond the state’s ban on most abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy. They want a law to ban telehealth prescriptions of abortion pills and a state constitutional amendment declaring that an embryo or fetus has all the legal rights of a person at any stage of development.

,Roe deer is out of the way,” said Jamie Flake, executive director of Georgia Right to Life. “There are no more barriers to what we can do in our state.”

Republican leaders, however, are biding their time while Georgia’s high court mounts a legal challenge to the six-week ban. “Our focus is on the case before the Georgia Supreme Court and seeing it across the finish line,” said Andrew Eisenhower, a spokesman for Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

Abortion rights lawmakers and advocates have few options to advance their initiatives in these Republican-controlled statehouses.

A Georgia Democrat filed a bill that would allow the state to compensate women who are unable to terminate pregnancies because of the state’s abortion ban. State Representative Darshaun Kendrick acknowledged that his bill likely won’t go away, but said he hopes it takes care of the issue and forces GOP lawmakers to “put their money where their mouth is” in supporting families. does.

In Missouri, where nearly all abortions are now banned, abortion rights advocates are mulling over the idea of ​​bypassing the state’s Republican-dominated legislature by asking voters in 2024 to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution are considering.

But those efforts could be bolstered by a slew of bills filed by Republican lawmakers that require at least 60% approval to put constitutional initiatives on the ballot and for measures that do make it on the ballot. Seeking to make it more difficult by necessity. of voters for passage.

Democrats in Michigan and Minnesota are likely to use their newfound control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office to protect abortion access. While Michigan voters already passed a ballot measure in November that enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution, Democrats are trying to repeal the 1931 abortion law off the books.

In Illinois, Democrats in control of the legislature recently strengthened abortion protections amid growing demand from out-of-state residents. New York lawmakers may send a proposed state constitutional amendment to protect abortion to voters this year, while New Jersey lawmakers decided against a similar proposal.

The November elections brought a split government in Arizona and Nevada, with Arizona now having a Democratic governor and Nevada a Republican. Any abortion-related bill that passes legislatures in those states can be vetoed.

Some Republican-controlled legislatures, including Montana, Florida, and Alaska, are also limited in passing comprehensive abortion restrictions because of court rulings linking abortion access to privacy rights provisions in those states’ constitutions.

In Montana, a state judge blocked three anti-abortion laws passed through 2021 on that basis. State government attorneys have asked the Montana Supreme Court to reverse the precedent, and a decision is pending.

Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Keith Regier has introduced a bill there seeking to exclude abortion from the state’s definition of the right to privacy. Regier said he believes a person’s right to privacy should not apply to abortion because an unborn child is also involved.

Democratic leaders said Republicans are out of sync with the people they represent on the issue. In November, Montana voters rejected a “born alive” ballot initiative that would require doctors to provide medical care to newborns who breathe or have a heartbeat after a failed abortion or another birth. .

Democratic state Rep. Alice Buckley said, “Montanans have said so clearly that they do not want the government to interfere in their health care decisions.”

KHN correspondents Renuka Raisam and Sam Whitehead in Atlanta; Ariel Zionts in Rapid City, South Dakota; Bram Sable-Smith in St. Louis; and Katherine Houghton in Missoula, Montana, contributed to this report.

Related topics

Contact Us Submit a story tip

Leave a Comment