Anticipating a country that no longer allows the constitutional right to abortion — and spurred by a draft Supreme Court opinion that telegraphs this seismic change — blue states are strengthening their reproductive rights laws. The decision is not only to protect the reproductive choice and care of women and girls who reside in their states, but also to offer itself as a “safe haven” for those who live in states where abortion should to be forbidden.
In Connecticut, the legislature passed a bill last month to protect providers and patients from lawsuits by states where abortion is illegal. In March, Oregon lawmakers approved $15 million for expanded abortion access — in part to help deal with an influx of patients from neighboring Idaho, which has a ban on abortion. six-week abortion. And in California, about a dozen reproductive rights bills are being passed by the legislature, while the governor and lawmakers promise to enshrine those rights in the state constitution.
“There is real recognition that abortion rights are under threat in much of the country, so progressive states are looking to see what they can do to ensure abortion remains available in their states, and not just for residents but for those who come to their country. states,” says Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state policy for the Guttmacher Institute, which studies and supports reproductive rights.
Why we wrote this
Both sides of the abortion debate say Roe’s end would be just “the beginning.” As California and others attempt to create safe havens for reproductive rights, states could face a legal war with each other.
Abortion access will be dramatically altered in the United States if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision in Roe v. Wade. That appears to be where the court is heading, as indicated by a majority opinion draft that landed with explosive political and cultural force in a leak to Politico this week. With this, decades of clashes leading to the High Court will unfold within and between the states, which will shape their own policies.
In a post-Roe world, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion — in the South, Midtown and West, according to Guttmacher. These states have either pre-Roe laws on the books or in their constitutions, “trigger” laws that would go into effect once Roe is overturned or have already passed very restrictive laws – including removing exemptions for rape or incest and making abortion a crime. Women in these states have three options: to carry out unwanted pregnancies, to induce abortions themselves by drugs or dangerous means, or to travel to sanctuary states.
“Access to medical abortion is vital” and now accounts for more than 50% of abortions in the United States, says Ms. Nash. Travel is expensive and stressful. For someone in Louisiana looking for abortion access, the closest state would be Illinois, a 1,300 mile round trip, she says. Three-quarters of abortion patients have low incomes and the majority are already parents, so many could not arrange childcare or afford to take time off from work or travel to a destination distant.
And yet, the journeys take place. Patients from Texas, which enacted a six-week ban last year (before many women knew they were pregnant), are traveling as far as Washington and Maryland – with around 1,400 trips each month since then. the ban comes into force in September. Wait times at closer clinics in Colorado and Illinois can be three to four weeks.
“In states that maintain access, capacity will be in high demand,” says Nash. “You just see a total disruption of access to care. You can see why progressive states are tightening abortion protections.
California will create a “model” for blue states
California has long been at the forefront of reproductive rights. In March, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that makes abortion access more equitable by eliminating co-pays and deductibles from private health insurance and the state Medicaid plan for people low income. Plans must cover all costs. He calls the recommendations of a newly formed advisory council and the resulting slate of bills now before the legislature a “model” for other states, making California a “beacon of hope.”
More than 160 clinics offer abortions in this deep blue state, but even that is not enough, say abortion advocates. Some 40% of counties do not have such clinics, and California is also dealing with an influx of patients from other states. The bills would help close those gaps by expanding capacity — funding more training for healthcare workers and allowing nurse practitioners with appropriate training to perform first-trimester abortions. The grants would also go to help low-income patients — including those from out of state — and providers who are unpaid for their work with low-income patients.
Another class of bills would protect patients and providers from tort judgments based on other states’ laws — and strengthen the privacy protections of abortion-related medical records from law enforcement. and third parties seeking to enforce abortion bans in other states. Newly passed Connecticut bills would prevent the governor from extraditing someone to another state if what they did in Connecticut is legal. In April, the governor of Colorado signed a law explicitly protecting abortion rights and preventing public entities from denying those rights. Since March, a Washington law has prohibited the state from taking legal action against people seeking abortions and those who help them.
This type of legislation is a response to any Texas-style ban in which private citizens can sue anyone suspected of assisting in an abortion. Abortion advocates are also concerned about a similar attempt in Missouri to make it illegal for a resident to leave the state to have an abortion. This effort in Missouri failed.
Such cross-border actions would open a new front in the abortion battlefield, says Cary Franklin, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and an expert in reproductive rights and gender issues. She describes interstate legal action against abortion as an “unsettled law” that has the potential to spawn numerous court cases.
“The irony is that [the Supreme Court’s] decision is going to create so much more controversy, and so much more confrontation, and so much more court cases,” she said. “States will now be at war with each other. »
According to her and others, the ultimate way to protect abortion rights in a state is to entrench them in the state constitution. Although 16 states plus Washington DC have codified reproductive rights into law, according to Guttmacher, future lawmakers can easily change those laws. Constitutions are much more difficult to change.
That’s why California Democratic leaders, despite the right to privacy in the state constitution that protects abortion, now want explicit constitutional protection. The overwhelming number of Democrats in the legislature means they could win the 2/3 needed to amend the constitution, sending the amendment to voters in November. A poll last year showed that 79% of likely voters don’t want Roe to be unseated.
“We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around that right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here,” the governor and legislative leaders said in a joint statement May 2. This fall, Vermont voters will also have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional change that protects the right to abortion.
Even that, however, could still be vulnerable to a Supreme Court ruling, Prof Franklin says. If the court were to rule on the personality of the fetus — saying that a fetus has a constitutional right to life, as the anti-abortion movement argues — that would trump state constitutions, although that depends on the wording, she says. “The fetal personality is probably the end,” she says.
“Beginning” of a new phase
Abortion supporters and opponents describe a reversal of Roe as the “beginning” of a new phase in the painfully divisive and consequential America debate.
“I think this is not the end, but really just the end of the beginning of the pro-life movement,” says Jonathan Keller, president of the anti-abortion group, California Family Council. The battlefield will shift from the courthouse to the statehouse, where state elections “will matter more than ever” as lawmakers shape reproductive politics.
He says it’s incumbent on voters who oppose abortion rights to support candidates who offer “real resources to women and families facing unwanted pregnancies.” This includes more funding for family resource centers, support for paid family leave and better maternal care. “This is going to give us a great opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. »
Susan Dunlap, president of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, also thinks this moment is a beginning, not an end. “I believe this is the beginning,” she says of the legislation going through the Sacramento statehouse. Planned Parenthood LA’s coordination within the state and county, working with medical schools for training and UCLA law for attorneys and research, and reorganizing to be close to airports, train stations road and rail – all of this was to prepare for the beginning after the end of Roe.
It’s an unprecedented moment, and “we don’t know what’s coming,” she said, calling it the fight of a generation. As she told reporters during an appearance with the governor this week, what she knows is that Planned Parenthood will do everything possible to keep its doors open and take care of every woman who turns to her. them and to other providers.
“We will elevate the values of freedom and freedom, knowing that we will not be defeated now or in the long term, because freedom is the future and the foundation of our country. »