How 3 Other States Are Attacking Abortion Rights After Alabama's Ban

Anti-abortion lawmakers in Missouri, Louisiana and Michigan are hoping for the same success.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law a near total ban on abortion, sending shockwaves across the country Wednesday as abortion rights groups prepared to launch a massive legal battle. 

But Alabama, where the new law makes performing an abortion a felony except in cases where the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, is far from the only state where access to the procedure is under threat.

Several other governors have signed restrictive abortion bans this year, including some that outlaw it as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and more state bills are hanging in the balance. Here are three pending measures that could move forward in the coming days.

Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act

This Missouri bill would ban abortion as soon as a doctor can detect heart or brain activity in the embryo, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. On top of that, the legislation has a firm cutoff date of eight weeks, except in cases of medical emergency for the woman.

The bill includes alternate language to deal with the possibility that such an early ban could be ruled unconstitutional. If that happens, it becomes a 14-week ban. If that cutoff date, too, is deemed unconstitutional, it becomes an 18-week ban ― and then if necessary, a 20-week ban.

The legislation would prohibit minors from obtaining an abortion without written parental consent in most cases, and it would outlaw doctors from performing abortions if they know the patient is seeking the abortion because of a prenatal test indicating the child could or would be born with Down syndrome.

It also has a “trigger” provision: If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a state law outright banning abortion, except in cases of medical emergency, would kick in.

Missouri’s House and Senate have passed the bill. It will need to be voted on at least one more time in the state House before being sent to the governor’s desk for signing.  

Louisiana’s Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Another bill effectively banning abortion at six weeks has been moving quickly through the Louisiana legislature and is now up for full House and Senate consideration. The measure, which Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has already indicated he would sign, seeks to “prohibit the abortion of an unborn human being with a detectable heartbeat.”

There is a caveat, however. The ban would only take effect if a federal appeals court upholds similar legislation in Mississippi, which was signed into law in March

State Sen. John Milkovich (D), the Louisiana bill’s author, has repeatedly cited his religious beliefs in pushing the legislation forward.

“God values human life and so do the people of Louisiana. We believe this is an important step in dismantling the attack of the abortion cartel on our next generation,” Milkovich said when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed it earlier this month, adding, “Life begins at conception according to Scripture.”

Louisiana already has a Roe v. Wade trigger law that it passed in 2006.

Michigan’s Late-Term Abortion And Dismemberment Abortion Ban

The Michigan legislature passed a bill on Tuesday outlawing an abortion procedure commonly used during a pregnant woman’s second trimester.

In the dilation and evacuation procedure, a doctor dilates the patient’s cervix and removes the fetus with suction and medical tools like forceps. Though the vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester when other options are available, D&Es account for about 95% of abortions performed in the second and third trimesters, according to the Guttmacher Institute

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said Tuesday that she plans to veto the legislation as soon as it reaches her desk, but anti-abortion groups have another plan up their sleeves to bypass Whitmer’s objection.

One of those groups, Right to Life, said it plans to launch a petition drive if Whitmer vetoes the bill, The Detroit News reported. If they can collect 400,000 signatures to send the “initiated legislation” back to the state legislature, the Michigan Constitution allows lawmakers to enact it without the governor’s signature.

What To Look Out For Next Year

Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana and Michigan are only a handful of the states where lawmakers introduced broad abortion bans this year. While many of those efforts foundered in committee, politicians have shown a willingness to reintroduce similar legislation year after year.

For example, lawmakers in South Carolina, one of the states where a fetal heartbeat bill failed to win full approval this year, introduced similar bills in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018. This session marked the first time the measure made it to either a House or Senate floor vote, with the former chamber passing it 70-31.

Other states that proposed similar legislation this session include Texas and Florida.

While abortion remains legal everywhere in the U.S. for now, states where governors have signed restrictive bills this year are readying for legal challenges that they hope will make their way to the Supreme Court, which they hope would then overturn Roe v. Wade.

This story has been updated to reflect that Missouri’s Senate passed the Unborn Act.