Abortion Fights Move to US States

    27 June 2022

    Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade, the battle for abortion rights has now moved to state courts and legislatures around the country.

    Thirteen American states, mainly in the South and Midwest, had laws ready that would ban abortion once Roe v. Wade was overturned.

    Abortion is a medical operation that ends a pregnancy.

    FILE - People attend an abortion-rights protest at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
    FILE - People attend an abortion-rights protest at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

    The Guttmacher Institute is an organization that supports abortion rights. It says 26 American states are likely to ban abortion now that Roe has been overturned. Opponents of abortion rights are now seeking to ban abortion across all 50 states.

    Abortion-rights supporters are trying to block or delay such measures in state courts. Many cases center on so-called "trigger laws." These are laws that ban abortion but only become enforceable after the overturn of Roe. Other legal actions target old anti-abortion state laws that were unenforced under Roe, known as "zombie laws."

    Nancy Northup is head of the Center for Reproductive Rights. She said last Friday, "We'll be back in court tomorrow and the next day and the next day" to argue these cases.

    Brigitte Amiri of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the organization is looking at "all options" to protect access to abortion.

    Questions on "trigger laws"

    As of Saturday, abortion services had stopped in at least 11 American states — either because of state laws or questions about them.

    In Louisiana, the state's Republican attorney general wrote Friday on Twitter that the state's "trigger law" was in effect immediately. And the three health centers providing abortions in the state closed that day.

    On Monday, abortion rights supporters took legal action hoping to delay the ban in Louisiana. They argued that state laws are unclear on when a ban can take effect and what is considered an exception to the law. Hours later, a judge in New Orleans temporarily blocked enforcement of the state's trigger law. At least one of the state's abortion clinics said it would restart performing abortions on Tuesday.

    In Utah, the state's Planned Parenthood group has challenged a trigger law with narrow exceptions in the state.

    Laura Herner is a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. She told The Associated Press that other challenges might argue whether state laws fully and clearly protect the life or health of a pregnant woman.

    Although the high court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion, abortion rights supporters argue that some state constitutions protect the right.

    In Florida, abortion rights supporters asked a judge to block a new state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks, with few exceptions. The law is set to take effect this week.

    The ACLU of Florida has argued that it violates the Florida Constitution.

    In another legal action, a Jewish group said the Florida law conflicts with the separation of church and state.

    And the ACLU of Arizona and an abortion-rights group are seeking to block a 2021 state law they worry can be used to halt all abortions.

    What about zombie laws?

    Abortion rights supporters are also looking into bans under "zombie laws" now that there is no federal protection for abortion.

    For example, the state of Wisconsin passed a law in 1849 banning abortions except to save the life of the mother. Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said he does not believe the law is enforceable. But abortion opponents have called on state lawmakers to establish a new ban.

    In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood said the state immediately suspended all abortions, even though law enforcement officials suggested that they would not enforce the ban.

    In Michigan, Planned Parenthood challenged a 1931 abortion ban ahead of last week's Supreme Court ruling. In May, a judge said the ban could not be enforced because it violates the state's constitution. Abortion rights supporters are now trying to get a proposed state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to protect abortion and birth control.

    Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas have passed laws that permit people to seek bounties against those who help others get abortions. A bounty is an amount of money given to someone as a reward for catching a criminal.

    These laws have raised questions over whether people can be followed across state lines under the law. Legal challenges are also likely to come up in cases of abortion medicine sent to patients.

    The California Legislature, controlled by Democrats, passed a bill Thursday to protect abortion providers and volunteers in the state from civil judgments put in place by other states.

    And in Massachusetts, Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order Friday barring state agencies from helping other states' investigations into anyone who receives a legal abortion in Massachusetts.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted the story for Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    option - n. a choice or possibility

    access - n. a way of getting at, near or to something

    challenge - v. to question the action or authority