This week, Alabama passed what is quite possibly the most restrictive abortion law in the country, effectively banning all abortions, even in the cases of rape and incest. The state joins six other states that recently passed intensely-restrictive abortion laws.
Abortion has been one of the key focal points of religious conservatives ever since 1973, when the Roe v. Wade decision effectively legalized abortion in all 50 states. A subsequent 1992 Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, did allow states to regulate abortions when the fetus is “viable,” and in recent months, several states have passed laws that effectively ban all abortions, regardless of the viability of the fetus.
Ohio, for example, passed a law preventing abortions once a “fetal heartbeat” could be detected. Since a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and since most women don’t even know they’re pregnant until around or after the sixth week, the law effectively banned all abortions.
Arkansas, similarly, wrote its anti-abortion laws in such a way only one abortion clinic was allowed to remain open in the state.
In fact, over the past couple of years, eight states (now including Alabama), have passed abortion laws so restrictive that they completely, or almost-completely, ban abortions in their states, bringing the complete list to Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Ohio, Alabama, and Georgia.
The Alabama legislature is ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) May 15, 2019
Instead, the government's role should be to make sure all women have access to comprehensive affordable care, and that includes safe and legal abortion.https://t.co/pU0rKy0fED
If the states have had two decades to regulate abortion (that is, since the Casey decision), then why have these strict anti-abortion laws only become a thing recently? Some have pointed to President Donald Trump’s recent Supreme Court appointees.
As Vice notes, Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have resulted in a conservative majority in the court. Some anti-abortion activists and politicians are hoping that that court will now be equipped to finally overturn Roe v. Wade after four decades, effectively allowing all 50 states to freely ban or restrict abortion.
But, for that to happen, it would require a court case to make it as far as the Supreme Court. These states have passed such laws with the specific intention of getting them challenged in the Supreme Court.
Further, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee have recently enacted what are called “trigger laws,” that is, laws banning abortion that will take effect once Roe is overturned. Other states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota, had passed such laws before the Trump administration.
Other states, according to The Washington Post, have pre-Roe abortion laws still on the books; though unenforceable, they’ve not been officially repealed.