States passed a flurry of new abortion restrictions this year
Abortion regulations were in the news earlier this year, with highly restrictive state bans making national headlines. Republican-leaning states, emboldened by the conservative-majority Supreme Court and efforts by the Trump administration to roll back abortion protections, have pushed more extreme limitations to the procedure.
But where are those laws now?
The short answer: Nowhere.
Of the nine so-called gestational bans — which bar abortions past a certain point in pregnancy — passed this year, none have gone into effect after most of them have been blocked by judges. In particular, court actions have kept all of the so-called heartbeat bans — bills outlawing abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — from coming into force.
Abortion experts on both sides of the debate say the bills aim to weaken or even directly challenge the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the US.
Legislators are more open about their goal of challenging Roe in light of the new Supreme Court and perceived cultural shifts, said Sue Swayze Liebel, state policy director director for anti-abortion advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List.
“I think there’s a renewed sense of momentum to challenge Roe, and I don’t think that’s been a secret,” she said. “I think it’s now just being viewed as a possibility.”
Elizabeth Nash — senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an advocacy group that supports abortion rights — said the new legislation reflects both recent political events and longer-standing patterns.
“Certainly a catalyst was this more conservative Supreme Court, but also potentially a catalyst was simply that since 2011, we have seen state after state adopt restriction after restriction,” she said. “And at some point, the only thing that’s really left to do is ban abortion.”
And the issue isn’t going away. A federal judge has yet to rule on a requested block on Alabama’s near-total abortion ban, which is slated to go into effect in November. And state legislators in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are looking to advance heartbeat bills of their own. In response, Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has already