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Republicans pass wave of new abortion restrictions

A slate of new abortion restrictions approved this week in Florida and Kentucky are part of a growing wave of procedural limits passed by Republicans across the country ahead of a much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling this summer.

On Wednesday night, the Kentucky Legislature overruled Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto to pass tough restrictions that have already forced clinics across the state to stop offering abortions. Less than 24 hours later, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) signed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. And as early as next week, Oklahoma could enact a law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy or banning the procedure altogether.

A haven for Texas patients, Oklahoma clinics brace for abortion ban

State lawmakers across the country have introduced more than 500 anti-abortion laws so far this year, as many Republicans brace for the High Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationa case that could subvert or significantly weaken Roe vs. Wadethe historic precedent that guaranteed the national right to abortion for almost 50 years.

While some states have enacted bold anti-abortion restrictions for years, courts have consistently blocked the strictest bans. But in recent months, courts at all levels have signaled their willingness to allow such restrictions to remain. The Supreme Court passed up three opportunities to block a Texas law that banned most abortions in the state. And while the judges discussed the Dobbs cases during oral arguments in December, many seemed open to cancellation deer.

“Lawmakers are waiting with bated breath,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United For Life, a national anti-abortion organization. “Do we expect to see deer reversed or at least minimized? Yes. We expect a good to excellent result.

Many GOP-led states are not waiting for a Supreme Court decision to enact their laws. Along with a comprehensive abortion ban passed last week and set to go into effect this summer, Oklahoma lawmakers are fast-forwarding two bills modeled after the Texas ban, which has so far eluded the intervention of the courts with a legal strategy that allows private citizens to apply the law. .

Oklahoma would become the second state to pass a law that mirrors the Texas ban. Idaho’s version of the Texas law – signed by Gov. Brad Little (R) – has been temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court.

Tracking New Measures Regarding Abortion Legislation in States

But as abortion rights groups celebrated the reprieve granted in Idaho, the Supreme Court’s reluctance to act on the Texas law signals that these “copy bans” may ultimately prove fruitful.

“This is not a drill, and it’s happening right now,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision [in Dobbs]the ban in Texas will still be in place.

Kentucky is the first state to successfully shut down access to abortion, at least for now. Although Kentucky’s new law does not explicitly ban abortion in the state — like many others crossing state legislatures this session — abortion rights advocates said the long list of restrictions makes it impossible for clinics to continue providing abortion care.

The law imposes limits on medical abortion, requiring abortion providers to be certified by the state board of pharmacy and banning telemedicine for abortion pills. It also requires cremation or burial of fetal remains and prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, like Florida law.

The 15-week bans in Kentucky and Florida — both of which include exceptions for the woman’s life but not for rape or incest — are modeled after the Mississippi law currently before the Supreme Court of Dobbs. Republican lawmakers said they opted for a 15-week ban to maximize the chances that their legislation could go into effect soon after the Supreme Court announces its ruling this summer.

“I believe we have a unique opportunity in the fact that the Supreme Court is looking at 15 weeks right now,” said state Rep. Erin Grall (R), who sponsored Florida’s bill in the House. . “This would allow Florida to save as many babies as possible as soon as possible after this decision is made.”

Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit challenging the Kentucky law and is also considering challenging Florida’s ban.

But as Planned Parenthood plans to mount aggressive challenges in court, Robinson said, the organization also realizes it can no longer rely on the courts to be a safety net.

“We will get people to vote,” she said. In a year of midterm elections, she added, citizens across the country will have the opportunity to weigh in on state governors and lawmakers who have backed anti-abortion policies.

Some Republican lawmakers are banking on anti-abortion restrictions to help them at the polls.

Before DeSantis signed the 15-week ban on Thursday, the 2024 presidential hopeful had relatively little anti-abortion legislation under his belt. The toughest anti-abortion law he has signed before was a 2020 measure requiring parental consent.

Two other prominent GOP governors who could run for president in 2024, South Dakota Governor Kristi L. Noem and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, have made anti-abortion measures a priority in their states.

Analysis: How extreme are these new red state abortion laws?

Abortion rights advocates see the recent law as part of DeSantis’ broader presidential strategy.

“He doesn’t want to be one of the candidates who was governor who didn’t ban abortion,” Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) said in a February interview. “He wants to be able to put on all his direct mail, ‘I’ve banned abortion in Florida.’ ”

At the signing ceremony on Thursday, a Republican lawmaker on stage declared DeSantis “the most pro-life governor in America.”

Meanwhile, the issue has placed the Democratic governor of Kentucky in a difficult political position. Despite broad support for anti-abortion policies in his deeply conservative state, Beshear vetoed the bill in early April, citing the lack of exceptions for rape and incest.

“Rape and incest are violent crimes,” he wrote. “Victims of these crimes should have options, not be further scarred by a process that exposes them to more harm from their rapists or treats them as offenders themselves.”

Clinics in Kentucky stopped offering abortions after the legislature voted Wednesday to override Beshear’s veto. They had been anticipating the new legislation for weeks and had already begun referring patients to clinics in neighboring Indiana, said Nicole Erwin, communications manager for Planned Parenthood’s Kentucky affiliate.

Among the toughest restrictions to follow is the new fetal remains rule, said Alecia Fields, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood in Louisville.

The law requires abortion clinics to work with funeral homes to bury or cremate the remains of each aborted pregnancy. To comply, Fields said, the clinic would likely need to hire more people who can help facilitate an elaborate, medically unnecessary burial process for every abortion performed.

“You also need to find funeral homes that are willing to work with Planned Parenthood in the state of Kentucky,” Fields said. Any funeral home that agrees to help will inevitably expose itself to backlash from the community, she added.

As more states further restrict abortion, patients who can afford to travel will cross state lines for the procedure. This dynamic played out in Texas, where more than 5,000 patients left the state between September and December for abortions in Oklahoma, New Mexico and elsewhere.

According to a recent study from the University of Texas at Austin, about 45% of Texas patients traveled to Oklahoma, more than any other state.

Now that Oklahoma is about to ban the procedure, Texans will be forced to drive even further for a safe and legal abortion or seek care elsewhere.

In McAllen, Texas, many patients crossed the border to buy abortion pills in Mexico, said Blair Cushing, an abortion provider at Whole Woman’s Health, the only clinic south of San Antonio. They often use incorrect instructions on how to take them, Cushing said — using a regimen that may not end the pregnancy or, worse, put the woman’s health at risk.

The new laws “really scared people,” she said.

Even when patients get a legal abortion at the clinic, Cushing said, they sometimes ask, “Am I breaking the law?


Washington

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