A complete ban on abortion may soon take effect in Nebraska. Abortion restrictions in Florida may be lowered from 15 to 12 weeks of gestation. Legislators elsewhere are targeting abortion pills.
The majority of states were not in session when Roe v. Wade was overturned, meaning that the term during which they typically write, and pass laws had ended. State legislatures will meet again in January in a completely different environment, one in which conservative lawmakers are no longer constrained by the constitutional right to abortion that Roe once guaranteed.
Abortion rights gained victories in several states as a result of the midterm elections. But in others, politics are on the side of anti-abortion advocates. In those reddest of states, the new state legislative sessions are likely to bring a fresh onslaught of efforts to restrict, penalize or altogether ban abortion.
Reducing the gestational age for legal abortion, along with enacting new outright bans, will be the organization’s top priority in 2023, according to Katie Glenn, the state policy director at Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America. 13 states currently forbid abortion.
It’s unclear how stringent those prohibitions will be because conservatives across the nation are at odds over whether abortion should be an exception or not.
Since the midterm elections, which saw some conservative victories, anti-abortion activists in some states who were previously stymied by Democrats now have room to maneuver. Progressive legislators in Nebraska effectively killed a Republican-proposed ban in 2022 by filibustering it. Legislators claim that the party no longer has the necessary support to stop an abortion ban.
In Iowa, for example, a six-week ban has been held up in court since 2019. The legislature may decide to enact a new ban when it meets again on January 9 as opposed to waiting for the courts. That would benefit from the recent ruling by the Iowa state supreme court that there is no constitutional right to abortion in the state, which came just before Roe was overturned.
Similar to this, given that Georgia’s governor, state house, and state senate are all controlled by Republicans, a six-week ban recently upheld by the state supreme court there might pave the way for new restrictions when the legislature convenes. Legislators have expressed interest in further restricting abortion in Florida, where the GOP secured supermajorities in both chambers, by lowering the gestational limit from 15 to 12 weeks.
The extent of the ban was a contentious issue among lawmakers; some favored making an exception for young rape victims or in situations where there was no chance of the fetus surviving outside the womb. These differences ultimately proved to be insurmountable; neither side made any concessions, and none of the proposed bans were implemented. The state’s courts are currently considering a separate six-week ban, and abortion is still permitted up to 22 weeks.
Conservatives are getting more and more worried about how to enforce anti-abortion laws in a time when people can get abortion pills online. The Food and Drug Administration has approved medication abortion, and it is regarded as very safe during the first trimester. Legislators in Oklahoma have requested clarification from the state’s attorney general on the legality of self-managed abortions performed with pills.
Another strategy to restrict access to abortion drugs is to impose in-person screening requirements, particularly in states without restrictions. For instance, a Kansas law attempted to prohibit medical professionals from telehealth prescriptions for medication abortion. Last month, a judge struck down that law.
Another anti-abortion group, Students for Life America, wants to restrict people’s ability to perform medication abortions at home by enacting legislation that would require fetal tissue to be treated as medical waste. That request has already been made to the Food and Drug Administration at the federal level.
States that forbid abortion typically punish those who provide abortions by breaking the law, but they formally exempt the person getting the abortion. Far-right organizations have pushed to end that exemption, but their efforts have so far proven politically unviable: in Louisiana, a bill that sought to charge women who end their own pregnancies with murder was rejected over the summer because most Republicans thought it went too far.