Abortion Debate Ramps Up in States as Congress Deadlocks

Conor right here:

2009: Obama says abortion rights legislation not a high precedence

2022: Democrats: Abortion rulings could also be ‘a blessing in disguise’

Additionally 2022: Dem candidates swamp GOP in Home fundraising

And right here we’re.

By Julie Rovner, Chief Washington Correspondent and host of KHN’s weekly well being coverage information podcast, “What the Well being?” She joined KHN after 16 years as well being coverage correspondent for NPR, the place she helped lead the community’s protection of the passage and implementation of the Inexpensive Care Act. Initially revealed at Kaiser Well being Information

Anti-abortion advocates are urgent for expanded abortion bans and tighter restrictions because the Supreme Courtroom overturned the nationwide proper to abortion. However with the talk largely deadlocked in Washington, the main target is shifting to states convening their first full legislative classes since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Though some state GOP lawmakers have filed payments to ban abortion drugs or make it harder for ladies to journey out of state for an abortion, others appear cut up about what their subsequent steps must be. Some are even contemplating measures to ease their states’ present bans considerably, significantly after Republicans’ less-than-stellar displaying within the 2022 midterm elections and voters’ widespread assist for abortion on state poll measures.

In the meantime, Democratic-led states wish to shore up abortion protections, together with Minnesota and Michigan, the place Democrats sewed up legislative majorities within the November elections.

Anti-abortion teams mentioned their objective in overturning Roe v. Wade was to show the choice again to the states, however now they’re making clear that what they need is an encompassing nationwide abortion ban.

“Laws on the state and federal ranges ought to present probably the most beneficiant protections doable to life within the womb,” says the “Put up-Roe Blueprint” of the anti-abortion group College students for Life.

The brand new Republican-led Home confirmed its anti-abortion bona fides on its first day of formal legislating, Jan. 11, passing two items of anti-abortion laws which are unlikely to turn into legislation with a Senate nonetheless managed by Democrats and President Joe Biden within the White Home.

So on the federal stage, the struggle is taking form within the courts over the abortion capsule mifepristone, which has been used as a part of a two-drug routine for greater than 20 years, and just lately grew to become the way in which a majority of abortions within the U.S. are carried out.

The Biden administration has moved to make mifepristone extra extensively obtainable by permitting it to be distributed by pharmacies, in addition to clarifying that it’s authorized to distribute the drugs through the U.S. mail. However the conservative authorized group Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of a number of anti-abortion teams, filed a federal lawsuit in Texas in November, charging that the FDA by no means had the authority to approve the drug within the first place.

In Texas, some lawmakers are exploring new methods to chip away at Texans’ remaining sliver of entry to abortions. For instance, one proposal would forestall native governments from utilizing tax {dollars} to assist folks entry abortion providers out of state, whereas one other would prohibit tax subsidies for companies that assist their native workers acquire abortions out of state.

These measures might get misplaced within the shuffle of the state’s frantic 140-day, every-other-year session, if legislative leaders don’t take into account them a precedence. The state’s set off legislation banning nearly all abortions that went into impact final yr “seems to be working very effectively,” mentioned Joe Pojman, founder and government director of Texas Alliance for Life, an anti-abortion group. In August 2022, three abortions had been documented within the state, down from extra 5,700 reported throughout the identical month a yr earlier, in line with the latest state information.

The highest state Home Republican mentioned his precedence is boosting assist for brand spanking new mothers, for instance, by extending postpartum Medicaid protection to 12 months.

It’s “a possibility for the Texas Home to focus greater than ever on supporting moms and youngsters,” mentioned Republican Home Speaker Dade Phelan.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, struck an analogous theme in a Jan. 10 speech, saying she is going to introduce payments to broaden a program for nurses to go to new moms at dwelling and assist state workers pay for adoptions. Beforehand, Noem mentioned South Dakota must focus “on taking good care of moms in disaster and getting them the assets that they want for each them and their youngster to achieve success.”

Some Texas GOP lawmakers indicated they could be open to carving out exceptions to the abortion ban in instances of rape and incest. And a Republican lawmaker plans to try to switch South Dakota’s ban, which permits abortions just for life-threatening pregnancies, to make clear when abortions are medically obligatory.

“A part of the difficulty proper now’s that medical doctors and suppliers simply don’t know what that line is,” mentioned state Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt, a nurse who has skilled miscarriages and high-risk pregnancies herself.

Rehfeldt desires to reinstate a former legislation that enables abortions for pregnancies that would trigger critical, irreversible bodily hurt to a “main bodily perform.” Rehfeldt mentioned she can also be engaged on payments to permit abortions for folks carrying non-viable fetuses, or who grew to become pregnant after rape or incest.

Some anti-abortion activists in Georgia are pushing lawmakers to go additional than the state’s ban on most abortions at about six weeks of being pregnant. They need a legislation to ban telehealth prescriptions of abortion drugs and a state constitutional modification declaring that an embryo or a fetus has all of the authorized rights of an individual at any stage of improvement.

Roe is out of the way in which,” mentioned Zemmie Fleck, government director of Georgia Proper to Life. “There’s no extra roadblock to what we will do in our state.”

Republican leaders, nonetheless, are biding their time whereas Georgia’s excessive courtroom weighs a authorized problem of the six-week ban. “Our focus stays on the case earlier than the Georgia Supreme Courtroom and seeing it throughout the end line,” mentioned Andrew Isenhour, spokesperson for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Abortion rights lawmakers and advocates have few choices to advance their initiatives in these Republican-controlled statehouses.

A Georgia Democrat filed a invoice that might make the state compensate girls who’re unable to terminate pregnancies due to the state’s abortion ban. State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick acknowledged her invoice possible received’t go far, however she mentioned she hopes it retains consideration on the difficulty and forces GOP lawmakers to “put their cash the place their mouth is” in supporting households.

In Missouri, the place almost all abortions are actually banned, abortion rights advocates are mulling the thought of circumventing the state’s Republican-dominated legislature by asking voters in 2024 to enshrine the precise to an abortion within the state’s structure.

However these efforts might be upended by a slew of payments filed by Republican lawmakers looking for to make it harder to put constitutional initiatives on the poll, and for these measures that do make it on the poll, by requiring the approval of a minimum of 60% of voters for passage.

Democrats in Michigan and Minnesota are possible to make use of their newfound management of each legislative chambers and the governors’ workplace to guard abortion entry. Whereas Michigan voters already handed a poll measure in November that enshrines the precise to abortions within the state structure, Democrats try to repeal a 1931 abortion legislation from the books.

In Illinois, Democrats answerable for the legislature just lately bolstered abortion protections amid elevated demand from out-of-state residents. New York lawmakers this yr might ship voters a proposed state constitutional modification to guard abortion, whereas New Jersey lawmakers determined in opposition to an analogous proposal.

The November elections introduced divided authorities to Arizona and Nevada, with Arizona now having a Democratic governor and Nevada having a Republican one. Any abortion-related payments that move the legislatures in these states might be vetoed.

Some Republican-controlled legislatures, together with these in Montana, Florida, and Alaska, are also restricted in passing sweeping abortion bans due to courtroom rulings that tie abortion entry to right-to-privacy provisions in these states’ constitutions.

In Montana, a state choose blocked three anti-abortion legal guidelines handed in 2021 on that foundation. State authorities attorneys have requested the Montana Supreme Courtroom to reverse the precedent, and a call is pending.

Within the meantime, Republican state Sen. Keith Regier has filed a invoice there looking for to exclude abortion from the state’s definition of a proper to privateness. Regier mentioned he believes a person’s proper to privateness shouldn’t apply to abortion as a result of an unborn youngster is also concerned.

Democratic leaders mentioned Republicans are out of sync with the folks they symbolize on this difficulty. In November, Montana voters rejected a “born alive” poll initiative that might have required medical doctors to use medical care to newborns who draw breath or have a heartbeat after a failed abortion or some other start.

“Montanans mentioned so clearly that they are not looking for authorities overreach of their well being care selections,” mentioned Democratic state Rep. Alice Buckley.