News Roundup: State Abortion Laws, City Response & Women

Find out which states are passing anti-abortion bills, which are expanding reproductive rights, how cities may respond and if women and doctors would be prosecuted.

States Banning or Reducing Access to Abortions

The Hill details states that have recently passed new abortion or reproductive healthcare laws,  including the following states that have limited or banned abortion procedures:

  • Alabama - Abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest.
  • Arkansas - Abortion ban after 18 weeks, with exceptions.
  • Georgia - Where fetal heartbeat is detected, abortion is banned.
  • Indiana - Ban on dilation and evacuation abortions, commonly used during second-trimester abortions and a bill that allows medical professionals to remove themselves from abortion procedures and abortion care.
  • Kentucky - Where fetal heartbeat is detected, abortion is banned.
  • Mississippi - Where fetal heartbeat is detected, abortion is banned -- scheduled to take effect in July.
  • North Dakota - Ban on dilation and evacuation abortions, commonly used during second-trimester abortions.
  • Ohio - Where fetal heartbeat is detected, abortion is banned -- scheduled to take effect in July.
  • Tennessee - A law that would ban abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned.
  • Texas - Bans abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, with exceptions. Passed a new law that requires doctors to treat infants born after failed abortions, also known as a "Born Alive" bill, which awaits signature.
  • Utah - Abortion ban after 18 weeks, with exceptions.

Alabama has the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, which makes it a felony for Alabama doctors to perform or attempt to perform an abortion, according to the story. Other states have been or will consider various bills, like Montana, whose governor vetoed a Born Alive bill.

States Expanding Abortion Access

Vox highlights states that have expanded access to abortions and reproductive healthcare, including:

  • Maine
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Vermont
  • Nevada

States like Illinois passed and signed into state law the Reproductive Health Act which would remain in effect even if the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision were to be overturned. The new state law "protects access to abortion up to viability (which experts say is around 24 weeks’ gestation) and after that if deemed medically necessary by a doctor," according to the website.

Could Women Be Prosecuted for Abortions?

In some states that have recently passed abortion bans or restrictions, many are being challenged in court and most will not go into effect for some time, according to the Washington Post.

Nationally, women are worried that these new state laws would impose criminal penalties for abortion, though the Post indicates the Alabama and Georgia laws do not criminalize women, but rather doctors and other medical professionals that practice abortion procedures.

The purpose, according to the story, is to challenge the Roe v. Wade decision by forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision.

While local prosecutors in states banning abortions are refusing to enforce the new anti-abortion laws, some like Cobb County Acting District Attorney John Melvin, who confirmed with the Daily Report that he is pro-life and authored an opinion piece on the website Merion West that compared Roe v. Wade to Third Reich policy, will prosecute doctors under the new law.

In his opinion piece, the Cobb County Acting DA indicated that not women but medical professionals are those that are criminally liable under the law:

"...a person commits the offense of criminal abortion when he administers any medicine, drugs, or other substance whatever to any woman or when he uses any instrument or other means whatever upon any woman with intent to produce a miscarriage or abortion. As such, liability would potentially lie with doctors, nurses, midwifes or pharmacists," he wrote.

However, the Daily Report looked further at Georgia's pending anti-abortion law to see how a woman might be charged with a felony in Cobb County:

Should the GBI investigate any pre-term fetal death, he could influence any determination whether that woman’s conduct, including prenatal care, was reasonable, and whether anything she did, in his view, contributed to that infant’s death,” said Macon District Attorney David Cooke of his peer. “Under this law, [Melvin] can influence whether she is charged with a felony or not. In short, his views could shape whether or not she is charged with murder.”

In an earlier article, the Washington Post explored the prosecution of women in countries where abortion is banned, such as El Salvador:

"Abortion has been completely criminalized in El Salvador since the late 1990s. And as of last year, more than 20 women and girls were in prison under the country’s abortion ban. Many of them were sentenced to decades in prison after prosecutors tacked homicide charges on top of abortion charges," reported Siobhan O'Grady.

Cities & Towns Respond to New Laws

City Lab explored several cities where councils are taking actions like making resolutions against the pending state abortion bans and reviewing public health and legal protocols and protections, as courts block bills from going into effect in order to consider legal challenges first.

Cities like Columbus, Ohio, have established physical buffer zones preventing protesters from obstructing entrances to abortion clinics and protecting patients.

Atlanta is considering how to decriminalize medically-prescribed home abortions locally.

This is about how we can be proactive and think about municipal policy in new ways rather than just the limitations that exist. Let’s think about some of the areas where cities have the legal right and enforcement power to increase and expand access,” said Jaira Burke, campaign manager for reproductive rights advocacy organization Amplify GA.

Conversely, the town of Waksom, Texas, made headlines as a "Sanctuary for the Unborn" when its city council adopting an anti-abortion ordinance. The town now classifies abortion as "murder," outlaws "Plan B" emergency contraception and prohibits in its jurisdiction acts of helping someone obtain an abortion -- including transportation, money or instructions, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Will Incidence of Self-Induced Abortion Rise?

According to a National Institutes of Health abstract, a 2018 policy statement by the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology position statement indicated that studies suggest that self-induced abortion is on the rise in the United States.

Patients should not cancel their appointments, urged Alexa Kolbi-Molinas of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, in the Post.

Women who are panicked should know they have time,” she said, as she suggested that the state bans on abortion would be overturned in court.

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