Are there *any* states working to protect abortion rights?


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If any week has ever made me feel like the world is on fire, it’s this one. After Georgia passed its “heartbeat bill” that will ban any abortion after six weeks—before most women know they’re pregnant—Alabama decided to up the ante by passing its own abortion ban. The law in Alabama, which will go into effect in six months, aims to restrict abortion at any point during a pregnancy, with the only exception granted in cases to save the mother’s life. Abortions will be illegal even in cases of rape or incest. As of Friday afternoon, the Missouri legislature passed its own bill to ban all abortions after eight weeks, which now heads to the governor’s desk.

These bills didn’t crop up at the same time by coincidence. Given the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, and that a Republican sits in the Oval Office, anti-abortion rights activists see the time to strike as now, with such legislation intended to trigger lawsuits. The ultimate goal of conservative activists and politicians is to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion up to fetal viability (typically 20 to 24 weeks after conception) as established in 1973. “This is a deliberate attempt to bring a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and to end the right to access safe, legal abortions in this country,” said Dr. Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund in a press call on Wednesday.

It should be noted: Abortion is still legal in all 50 states. The Georgia ban does not go into effect until 2020; the Alabama law does not go into effect until late 2019. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already promised to challenge these laws in court.

However, while some skeptics don’t fully believe that the current Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, activists remain seriously concerned about the possibility. “Those of us in the business are not surprised,” says NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue about the passage of the law in Alabama. “We’ve been preparing for this reality.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, states would control abortion regulation and access. Per the Washington Post, some states have “trigger” laws that would ban abortion immediately, while others have bans pre-dating Roe that were never replaced, and still other states have laws that protect abortion rights outright.

When looking at events in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri, among other states, that prospect seems terrifying from where I stand. But not all hope is lost; activist groups have been working at the state level to secure abortion rights in order to “secure islands of [abortion] access,” said Hogue in a press call Thursday. To her point, there are a few states in the U.S. that are working ensure abortion rights protections in their own laws—and in some cases, to amend their constitutions to protect abortion rights for good.

What is my state doing to protect abortion rights?

California

  • Current law: As of 2002, state law stipulates that “the state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”

Connecticut

  • Current law: Connecticut law currently states that “the decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to the viability of the fetus shall be solely that of the pregnant woman in consultation with her physician.” Abortion after fetal viability is restricted except in cases in which it’s necessary “to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman.”
  • Anything new?: In response to the recent slate of anti-abortion laws, the state legislature is currently considering a bill that would put restrictions on crisis pregnancy centers (which are typically anti-abortion) from using misleading advertising practices.

Delaware

Hawaii

  • Current law: Hawaii law explicitly states that “the State shall not deny or interfere with a female’s right to choose or obtain an abortion of a nonviable fetus or an abortion that is necessary to protect the life or health of the female.”

Illinois

  • Current law: The state currently has an old ban on all abortions after 12 weeks—but it’s unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade. Per NARAL, it also restricts abortion post-fetal viability unless the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s health or life.
  • Anything new?: Legislators introduced a bill in February that would overturn older abortion laws still on the books and codify a person’s right to an abortion. This week lawmakers in the state government demanded action on the proposed bill after Alabama and Georgia passed abortion bans.

Maine

  • Current law: In 1993, Maine passed a bill that affirms the right of women to “terminate a pregnancy before viability.” After fetal viability, Maine law stipulates that abortion may only be performed if necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. All abortions in Maine must be performed by a licensed physician.

Maryland

Massachusetts

  • Current law: Abortion is legal in Massachusetts up to 24 weeks; state law reads that after 24 weeks “no abortion may be performed except by a physician and only if it is necessary to save the life of the mother, or if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.”
  • Anything new?: Bill S.1209, also known as the “ROE Act,” was introduced in January 2019. The proposed legislation aims to eliminate requirements that minors get parental consent before having an abortion, and would allow women to get abortions after 24 weeks if the doctor judges that it “is necessary to protect the patient’s life or physical or mental health, or in cases of lethal fetal anomalies, or where the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus.” It is expected to go to debate (and potentially a vote) this fall.

Nevada

New York

Oregon

Rhode Island

Vermont

Washington

  • Current law: Washington protected its citizens’ right to abortion up until fetal viability in a 1991 ballot initiative.

What if I don’t see my state on this list?

Call. Your. Representatives. The national battle over abortion rights is important (and headline-grabbing), but it’s also important for people passionate about abortion rights to lobby their local and state governments to ensure that they are protected if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Here’s how to get in contact with all of your elected officials, from your state senators and representatives to your governor. NARAL has also set up its own site with information on how to fight back against abortion bans. Now’s the time to take a stand.

Here’s what one woman says about her experience with abortion. And ICYMI, here’s how to help people in states with restrictive abortion laws.

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