The year is shaping up to be the most devastating on record for abortion rights.
Texas’ abortion ban created a nearly unbeatable blueprint for other red states looking to restrict access to the procedure. Anti-choice lawmakers have introduced hundreds of restrictions. And the Supreme Court could gut Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that expanded access to abortion nationwide, in a matter of months.
The anti-abortion rights movement is invigorated — and it appears to be winning.
“The anti-choice movement and the extremist politicians that do its bidding are emboldened by the looming threat to the constitutional right to abortion and are using this legislative session to chart new waters in their quest to end legal abortion,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju. “We have seen lawmakers hostile to reproductive freedom launch an all-out assault on abortion rights and they aren’t slowing down.”
For the past decade, anti-choice lawmakers on the state level have consistently tried to roll back abortion rights — that’s nothing new. In 2021 alone, they introduced 663 measures to restrict access to abortion care, 108 of which were enacted into law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights.
What is new is the anti-abortion movement’s renewed sense of energy.
As state legislative sessions wind down, 42 states have introduced 536 abortion restrictions, according to an analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, in the first few months of 2022.
Just over 30 of those measures have been passed into law in nine states, including Arizona, Florida and Indiana. Kentucky and South Dakota lawmakers have been particularly aggressive: Five of the new anti-abortion laws are in South Dakota, and 19 are in Kentucky.
In the first three and a half months of 2022, 19 states introduced copycat versions of Texas’ abortion ban, which restricts abortion at six weeks and effectively deputizes private citizens to enforce it. In December, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to stand — including its six-week ban and extreme enforcement mechanism — as the lawsuit opposing its constitutionality proceeded in lower courts.
In addition, a dozen states introduced “trigger bans,” or abortion restrictions that would go into effect immediately if Roe is overturned.
And the fall of Roe could be soon: The Supreme Court heard arguments in December on a 2018 Mississippi abortion ban that seeks to restrict the procedure at 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Experts and advocates on both sides agreed that the conservative-majority high court signaled it would either overturn Roe or cut the gestational limit from 24 weeks to 15 weeks. The much-anticipated decision in that case is expected sometime in June.
“For the past decade, anti-choice lawmakers on the state level have consistently tried to roll back abortion rights — that’s nothing new. What is new is the anti-abortion movement’s renewed sense of energy.”
At least 26 states are poised to ban or severely restrict abortion access if Roe falls this summer. In some states, there are abortion bans on the books that predate the 1973 Supreme Court case; those would immediately go into effect if Roe was overturned. Other states have preemptively passed trigger bans in anticipation of Roe falling in the coming months.
As activists on both sides of the aisle prepare for the looming Supreme Court decision, abortion opponents have ramped up their attacks on medication abortion, while pro-choice advocates are working to provide access via websites and by mail. Of the 536 total restrictions introduced so far, 116 are medication abortion restrictions, and 14 of them have been enacted.
Encouraged by the impending Supreme Court decision and by a political party now playing to its most extreme wing, many abortion opponents have already claimed victory. And that can be seen in just how cruel many of the measures introduced this year are.
In Oklahoma, state lawmakers considered creating a database of pregnant people looking to get abortions. In Missouri, a state senator wanted to ban people from traveling out of state to get abortions, while others tried to criminalize treating ectopic pregnancies — which are not viable and often life-threatening. In New Hampshire, lawmakers debated a bill that would give men veto power over a woman’s choice to get an abortion.
On the heels of Texas’ six-week abortion ban, several states have introduced similar legislation this year that copies the Lone Star state’s brutal enforcement mechanism. Idaho became the first state to pass a copycat Texas ban into law last month. Although the Idaho law allows exceptions for rape or incest (unlike other copycat measures), it forces women to file a police report and provide it to a physician before being allowed to get an abortion. And, if a woman fails to do all this before her abortion, the rapist’s family members could sue and collect damages.
Notably, some of these measures are actually becoming law — and, unlike in the past, few are facing successful court challenges. A rash of 15-week abortion bans with no exceptions for rape or incest sprang up this year. Governors in Florida and Arizona signed 15-week bans into law that will devastate access to care. Kentucky’s governor recently vetoed a 15-week abortion ban, but the state legislature overrode his veto. All three bans are unconstitutional and will likely face legal challenges before they take effect.
The brazen choice by many GOP lawmakers to abandon standard language in anti-choice measures, such as rape and incest exceptions, is proof enough that the tide has turned.
“Even as Roe stands, abortion access is already being eviscerated at rapid speed across the country,” Timmaraju said. “Make no mistake: They won’t stop at banning abortion — the anti-choice movement wants to attack birth control, LGBTQ children and families, and roll back many of the freedoms we hold dear. These cruel attacks fall hardest on the folks who already face the greatest barriers to accessing care.”
The Republican Party, especially at the state level, is no longer interested in making abortion restrictions palatable to voters. And Republicans seem to be getting away with it.