On Tuesday, a federal judge blockedAlabama’s extreme abortion ban, which would charge doctors who perform abortions with a felony that could carry up to 99 years in prison.
The ban — which made abortion illegal from conception except when the mother’s health is in serious danger or the fetus is not viable, but with no exceptions for rape or incest — was set to go into effect on Nov. 15. Acting on a lawsuit that civil liberties and abortion groups filed jointly in May (immediately after the law was passed),District Judge Myron Thompson ruledthat the ban “contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent” and violates patients’ privacy.
But the matter isn’t settled. The injunction will remain in effect until the “court resolves the case in full.” Staci Fox,the president ofPlanned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, has vowed to “continue fighting this law in court until it ispermanently blocked. ”State Attorney General Steve Marshall, in a filing in August, made it clear he meant not just to fight the suit but to challengeRoe v. Wadeitself.
The case is not the only one that, in the spring, seemed to targetRoe v. Wadewith more severe abortion bans in the year after Brett Kavanaughwas confirmed to the Supreme Court. Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi all passed strict laws this year flouting the landmark Supreme Court ruling. Alabama’s abortion ban may have been the most radical of them all, but as one bill after another became law in other states, the news seemedbleakfor abortion rights advocates across the country.
But challenges to those bans came swiftly, and as a result, none of those draconian laws have gone into effect yet. Here’s why — and where each of those laws stands now.
Theoriginatorof 2019 ‘s spate of “heartbeat bills,” Ohio passed its strict ban into law in April. The law threatened doctors with felony convictions and up to a year in prison, and it made no exceptions for rape or incest. Like Alabama, it did allow abortions in cases when the mother’s life was in danger.
In July, a federal judgeblockedthat ban, just a few days before it was set to go into effect. The judge nodded toRoe v. Wadeand noted that many women would be unable to have access to an abortion at all if the cutoff were so early; a fetal heartbeat can usually be detected about six weeks into a pregnancy, or just two weeks after a missed period and before many women know they’re pregnant. The instigating lawsuit, filed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU in May, is now working its way through the courts.
A federal judge temporarily blocked Missouri from enforcing its ban on abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy in August, just one day before it was scheduled to go into effect. The judge also cited the likelihood the law would be found unconstitutional underRoe v. Wade, and he blocked complementary backup measures attached to the law that would ban abortions atother later gestational periods. The judge did allow bans on abortions motivated by the baby’s sex, race, or a diagnosis of Down syndrome, meaning those restrictionsdidgo into effect, but last month the same judge accepted new arguments on the effects of those measures andblocked them, too. The state appealed the ruling to the 8 (th) US Circuit Court of Appeals, which will rule on the case in the coming months.
The ban isn’t the state’s only abortion fight; Missouri stands to become the first state in the country to have no abortion clinic sinceRoe v. Wade. The state attorney general is currently trying to shut down Louis ’Planned Parenthood clinic over alleged health and safety concerns. Planned Parenthood has taken the issue to the state’s administrative hearing commission, which is currentlyhearing the case. It is expected to make a decision next year, after February, at which point the losing side is likely to appeal the decision to the Missouri state court.
In March, Kentucky’s Legislature passedtwo abortion laws: one fetal “heartbeat bill” and one ban on abortions motivated by sex, race, or disability. Those carried “emergency” declarations and therefore became law immediately, but a federal judge quicklysuspendedboth laws upon a challenge from the ACLU. Republicans in the Legislature have said they hope Kentucky could bring the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to overturnRoe.
The Legislature also passed a string of other laws targeting abortion, such as one thatforces doctorsto tell patients that some abortions can be reversed, despite the fact that research does not support the claim, one that many medical professionals have complained is irresponsible.
On Oct. 1, a federal judge temporarily blockedGeorgia’s “heartbeat bill”that Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law in May. It would have gone into effect in January 2020. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other reproductive rights organizations filed the lawsuit in June, and the lawsuit is still waiting to be argued in court.
In May, a federal judge blocked Mississippi’s near-total abortion ban starting as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization sued to challenge the law, which made no exceptions for rape or incest and which would have revoked doctors ’medical licenses if they performed abortions. The law was scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
That same judge had ruled that Mississippi’s 15 – week abortion ban from the year before was unconstitutional, and Mississippiappealed that ruling. The state’s attorneys filed separate arguments about the more recent ban to the 5thUS Circuit Court of Appeals.
Louisiana also passed a near-total “heartbeat” abortion ban, but it also included a measure saying the law would not go into effect unless Mississippi’s similar bill was upheld in court. As a result, Louisiana’s abortion clinics are still free to function.
Elsewhere, early this month, the Supreme Courtsaidit would review an earlier state law that mandated doctors at abortion clinics also have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — a requirement that reproductive rights advocates have said would mean all but one of the state’s clinics would have to close. The law is nearly identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2016. This ruling will be the first opportunity for the post-Kavanaugh Supreme Court to tackle abortion regulations.
Arkansas, which previously passed an 18 – week abortion ban that wasblocked in court, is one of several states to have passed a “trigger” law that would automatically ban all abortions not including medical emergencies if the Supreme Court overturnsRoe v. Wade. Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Dakota, and South Dakota all have passed similar “trigger” bans.