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31 States Could Ban Abortions If High Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

If the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade abortion case, as indicated in a draft opinion obtained by Politico, abortion would immediately become illegal in at least 13 states and more would almost certainly follow. New restrictions in other red states would make the procedure difficult to actually obtain even in many places where it might technically remain legal, Axios reports.

Women in some places, especially the South, would have to travel hundreds of miles to reach an abortion clinic. That would disadvantage poor women and women of color.

The draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito for five justices declares that, "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start." The opinion, which dates from February, still could be revised.

Several states are restricting abortions further as a high court is deliberating. Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, severely restricting access to the procedure. The new law, which takes effect on July 1, is modeled after an abortion ban in Mississippi that the Supreme Court seems set to uphold, reports the New York Times.

It contains exceptions only in cases where an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Kentucky lawmakers overturned the governor’s veto of a measure restricting abortions after 15 weeks and prohibiting providers from offering abortions until they can meet certain requirements. The Kentucky law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on April 21.

The Oklahoma legislature has approved a bill prohibiting abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that could sharply reduce abortion access.

The bill is modeled on a Texas law that took effect in September. It bans abortion after cardiac fetal activity, generally around six weeks of pregnancy, and requires enforcement by civilians, allowing them to sue any doctor who performs or induces the abortion, or anyone who “aids or abets” one. The bill incentivizes lawsuits by offering rewards of at least $10,000 for those that are successful.

Abortion bans have been introduced in 31 states this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Bans have passed at least one legislative chamber in seven states: Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia. They have been enacted in six states: Florida, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming.

“What we’re seeing right now is the buildup of decades where state legislatures have been adopting restriction after restriction, and now they’re moving to adopt ban after ban,” said Guttmacher's Elizabeth Nash. She said the legislation reflected increasingly conservative state legislatures moving to take advantage of rightward shifts in the courts.

Several states already have so-called trigger bans, which will make abortion illegal if Roe is overturned or scaled back. All of the legislation proposed so far is likely to be enacted. Some efforts may face court challenges: In Idaho, an abortion ban modeled on that of Texas was set to take effect on April 22, but was temporarily blocked by the Idaho Supreme Court on Friday.

Axios said the apparent leak of the Supreme Court opinion was the first such case in modern history.

There were some suggestions that the opinion was obtained via a hack of the court's email system and not a deliberate leak.

Politico reported that Alito's opinion apparently would be joined by Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

CNN reported that Chief Justice John Roberts doesn't want to completely overturn Roe v. Wade — meaning he may dissent along with the court's three liberals.

Abortion-rights supporters hope to peel a vote away from that majority or to push the court to adopt a more incremental ruling.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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