Fears that a conservative U.S. Supreme Court would inspire a wave of anti-abortion legislation across the country appear to have been warranted, a study of state-level bills introduced this year suggests.
According to a report the Planned Parenthood Federation of America released Friday, legislation limiting abortion in 2021 has skyrocketed in comparison to a similar time frame in 2019. Compared to bills introduced from January through mid-March 2019, medication abortion restrictions and bans have tripled to 33, anti-abortion constitutional amendments have more than tripled to 14, and states have enacted 12 abortion restrictions this year, compared to just one by this point in 2019.
Overall, state legislatures have introduced 516 abortion restrictions, compared to 304 by mid-March 2019. Those pieces of legislation are clearly “about power and control over our bodies,” PPFA president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said, noting the bills disproportionately impact people of color, people with low incomes and LGBTQ+ people.
“These policies are designed to make it harder for people to exist,” she said.
Many of the bills have already faced swift legal challenges, preventing them from going into effect on schedule or at all. But proponents of the most restrictive legislation say that’s all part of the plan ― to push legally dubious abortion legislation up to the Supreme Court, now firmly conservative with Donald Trump’s three additions, with the goal of forcing the justices to revisit Roe v. Wade.
“We are seeing anti-choice lawmakers across the country kicking their efforts to end legal abortion into overdrive,” Kristin Ford, the communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told HuffPost, linking the phenomenon to the Trump supermajority on the Supreme Court.
“These lawmakers’ draconian attacks on pregnant people and doctors who provide abortion care are dangerous and out of step with mainstream values and the 7 in 10 Americans who support reproductive freedom,” she added.
The surge in bills can in part be attributed to anti-choice lawmakers gaining seats in state legislatures last November, Planned Parenthood said in its report.
“Politicians who oppose abortion gained more seats in some state legislatures in the 2020 election, and they are pushing these policies at rapid speed,” the report said.
That’s true of South Carolina, one of the states that recently passed a six-week abortion ban. In November, Republicans expanded their dominance in both the state House and Senate. Newly elected state Sen. Billy Garrett is one of the Republicans who flipped a Democratic seat with a campaign emphasizing his opposition to abortion. Earlier this year, he cast the deciding committee vote to advance the six-week abortion ban.
Wyoming is another state that made Republican gains in the legislature and introduced a wide slate of anti-abortion bills. Freshman Rep. John Romero-Martinez, for one, a Republican who flipped a Democratic seat, sponsored a bill that would outlaw abortions based on a fetus’ genetic conditions, race, gender or other qualifications determined to be discriminatory.
This week in Texas, freshman lawmaker Rep. Bryan Slaton (R) called for a hearing on his bill to make abortion a crime punishable by death for women and physicians. “It’s time Republicans make it clear that we actually think Abortion is murder,” he said in a statement.
“These policies are designed to make it harder for people to exist.”
The swell of anti-abortion bills is playing out across 29 states, Planned Parenthood said in its Friday report; it’s not just happening in deep red states. One of the bills currently in progress is a 20-week abortion ban in Florida, which the Guttmacher Institute found would force Florida women to drive an average of eight hours each way to have the procedure performed past 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Meanwhile in New Hampshire, lawmakers are currently debating two anti-abortion bills: one that would ban the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy and one that would require doctors to provide “lifesaving nourishment” to any fetus “born alive” as a result of an abortion.
Some states have made an attempt at or succeeded in passing a near-total ban on the procedure. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed into law one such ban earlier this month, outlawing abortion except in cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s life. Hutchinson said explicitly last Sunday that he signed the bill with his eye on a Supreme Court battle.
“That was the whole design of the law. It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” he said on CNN. “I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.”