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Many states passing abortion restrictions

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Since the start of 2019, more than 250 bills have been filed in 41 states in an attempt to restrict abortion, according to a new report issued by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Guttmacher Institute.

None of the legislation enacted this year has taken effect, and nearly all bills have already been challenged in the courts, or are in the process of being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and other abortion-rights organizations.

Restrictive legislation ranges from an outright ban on nearly all abortion procedures, to bans after 18 weeks of pregnancy, to so-called “heartbeat” bills that ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Some states have enacted provisions to ban abortions if the decision to terminate a pregnancy is what lawmakers who oppose abortion call a matter of “choice” or is based on “discrimination” because of gender, race or a fetal disability diagnosis, such as Down syndrome.

“Trigger” bans that would make abortion illegal should Roe v. Wade be overturned at the federal level, have been enacted in a number of states including Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.

Roe v. Wade is the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a woman’s legal right to privacy, which in turn disallowed many state and federal restrictions on abortion.

New Mexico is one of nine states that have pre-Roe bans on abortion that are currently moot and unenforceable because of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling; however those state bans would automatically go into effect in the event Roe is overturned.

Here’s a look at some of the anti-abortion legislation that has been passed by state legislatures in recent months, based on stories from news sources around the country:

Criminalizing doctors

The governor of Alabama has signed a bill into law that would ban nearly all abortions in that state. The law makes it a felony for a doctor to perform any abortion, the lone exception being if the mother’s life is at risk.

Doctors who violate the law would face a possible 99-year prison sentence. Exceptions for rape or incest are not included in the law, though one was made for cases where the mother’s health is at risk.

Eighteen-week abortion bans

The governors of Arkansas and Utah both signed bills that ban abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy.

The Arkansas bill provides exceptions for medical emergencies, rape and incest. It also makes providing an abortion a felony, though the person seeking an abortion would not be charged.

The Arkansas state Legislature also passed a bill requiring physicians who perform or induce abortions to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. In addition, the bill expands the definition of “viability” to include a fetus that, in a physician’s judgment, can live outside the womb with the aid of life support medical equipment.

Utah’s governor signed a bill banning abortion in cases where the fetus had the genetic markings for Down syndrome.

Federal courts have already found that banning abortion at under 20 weeks is unconstitutional, and in March a federal judge in North Carolina ruled a 20-week ban unconstitutional.

Heartbeat bills

This year Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio all passed “heartbeat” laws that ban abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat – as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – and often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Similar bills were signed into law in Iowa last year, and in North Dakota in 2013, which was the first state to pass such legislation. In those cases, federal judges ruled those laws unconstitutional, noting that Roe v. Wade legalized a woman’s right to an abortion in all 50 states.

Late last year, a state court in Mississippi ruled against the legality of a 15-week ban on abortion, giving abortion-rights advocates reason to be hopeful that the same court would reject this even more restrictive bill.

The Missouri heartbeat bill provides a bit longer window, banning abortions after eight weeks of a pregnancy, though it does provide exceptions for “medical emergencies.”

The Missouri Legislature also passed a trigger law that would initiate an automatic ban on all abortions in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. An existing parental notification law was modified so that the consent of both parents, not just one, is required for a minor’s abortion, and it banned all abortions where the reason cited is a diagnosis of Down syndrome or race or sex of the developing fetus.

On May 31, a St. Louis Circuit Court judge issued an order to keep Missouri’s only abortion clinic operating, over the objections of the state’s health department, which had refused to renew its license because of “failed surgical abortions” in which women reportedly remained pregnant after abortion procedures.

According to Planned Parenthood, had the St. Louis judge not intervened, Missouri would have become the first state without an abortion clinic since the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Democrat, signed a heartbeat bill that sailed through the state’s Legislature. The law has exceptions if the mother’s health is at risk, but none for rape or incest. An amendment to the law says it will be implemented only if the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a similar heartbeat law in neighboring Mississippi.

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