The state of abortion legislation in America

Do you know what precisely is happening in the United States regarding its abortion legislation? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions and why it could concern you and your community.

With the ruling in Roe vs Wade seemingly poised for an overturn, many states in the US are rushing to impose bans and additional restrictions on abortion. Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma recently signed a law that makes getting an abortion or performing it a felony, which is punishable with up to 10 years in prison. Here are all the updates.

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Republican-led states in the US have been leading the front in restrictive abortion legislation under proposals across the country. With Roe vs Wade facing an overturn, it is essential to know the state of abortion legislation in America. Here’s why it could concern you and your community. We’re answering some of the most common questions about the legislation so far.

Abortion legislation in America

In the latest development, Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed a law that would make abortion a felony in the state. It would be punishable by imprisonment of up to 10 years. The measure, Senate Bill 612, can take effect in August. The only exception in which abortion can take place is if the life of a pregnant woman is in danger due to a medical emergency. 

The state of Texas implemented a ban on most abortion procedures last fall. Due to this, Oklahoma became the preferred destination for Texans looking to get abortions. This has led to the latest bill being enacted by Oklahoma. The bans enforced by Texas are the most restrictive since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe vs Wade in 1973. It also looks likely that the Supreme Court will rule on a case that overturns the Roe vs Wade decision. 

How many states have legislation banning abortion in America? 

A total of 30 states in the US have introduced restrictions this year that support near-total abortion bans. This is according to data provided by a research group that supports abortion rights, known as the Guttmacher Institute. In seven states, the bans have passed at least one legislative chamber. These include Florida, Arizona, Wyoming, West Virginia, Idaho and Oklahoma. Out of these, the bans have been enforced in four states – Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho and, now, Oklahoma. 

Many states in the country already have trigger bans that will make abortion fully illegal if the ruling in Roe vs Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. The entire legislation in proposal so far is likely to see enactment. But there may be a few challenges as well. Planned Parenthood is already challenging any ban on abortion that can pass in Oklahoma. In Idaho, an abortion ban supposed to be effected in April was blocked by the Idaho Supreme Court, although temporarily. 

States have passed other stringent restrictions as well. These include laws overseeing parental consent and waiting periods. In Florida, a waiting period of 24 hours was allowed by a judge, something abortion rights groups were trying to prevent for 7 years. According to policy analysts, state legislatures have been implementing restrictions for decades, and now it is moving toward more bans. 

What is a near-total ban? 

According to Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a “near-total” ban indicates complete restrictions on abortion except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger. Primarily, there are two types of bans in view at the moment. 

The first one comes from the laws in Texas. This law deputizes private citizens to file a lawsuit against any person who aids and abets an abortion or carries out an abortion procedure. According to Texas law, an abortion cannot take place once the embryo shows cardiac activity. Cardiac activity in the embryo is normally detectable around the sixth week of pregnancy. During this period, most people are not even aware that they are pregnant. 

A bill on the Senate floor in Oklahoma wants to go further. It seeks to empower citizens to be able to place a ban on any abortion right after fertilization, without waiting for cardiac activity in the embryo. If passed, this law would come into effect right away. 

A few other states are looking at implementing 15-week bans. These are not near-total bans but are still very much against the Roe ruling. As per the Roe ruling, a fetus can be aborted till the 23rd week, until it is viable outside the womb. 

Which states have confirmed their support for abortion rights? 

Meanwhile, the future of Roe vs Wade is unclear. And with this, many states are pushing legislation that protects the right of an individual to get an abortion. The District of Columbia and around 30 states are considering measures that protect people’s access to abortion. At least 16 states and the District of Columbia already have laws that offer protection to an individual’s right to an abortion.

Some states have gone a step further. In Vermont, in February, lawmakers voted to go ahead with an amendment to the constitution of the state that guarantees a person’s right to have an abortion if needed. California is looking to make the state a “refuge” for all women seeking abortions through a number of bills. These bills make it easier for patients to get access to abortion procedures and for abortion service providers to receive payment as well.

Late last year, with Governor Gavin Newsom’s support and the leaders of California’s two legislative chambers calling to increase the funding given to providers of abortion services, a proposal strengthened the legal protections available to abortion patients and decreased the administrative barriers for such patients to access abortion services. Newsom, a Democrat, signed legislation in March to do away with out-of-pocket costs for abortion services.

Surgical abortions vs medical abortions using pills? 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2020 alone, over half of all abortions in the US used pills. These are medical abortions that use a combination of two drugs, misoprostol and mifepristone. 

Abortion legislation, restrictions and bans in America extend to both medical abortions as well as surgical abortions. 

Which states record the highest number of abortions? 

The state that recorded the greatest number of abortions in the United States was California. It accounted for 15.4% of all the abortions done in the country. In second place was New York contributing to 12.2%. Florida recorded the third-highest number with 8.2%. The Guttmacher Institute obtained this data as per a 2017 census among providers of abortion services. 

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