On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court heard the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which they determined the US Constitution does not include the right to abortion. This landmark decision overturned the case of Roe v Wade, which stood for nearly 50 years.
This bombshell decision then generated “trigger” laws across the country, in which states rapidly passed laws that forbade abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life. More than a dozen states began to pass these trigger laws in the days following the decision.
These states include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
Although 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, state lawmakers are ultimately the key deciders in these cases, many of whom are Republican Conservatives.
So who are they and what do they support?
Liz Brown, State Senator of Indiana
Sen. Brown has been fighting the Senate Bill 1 proposal by Sen. Sue Glick, (R-LaGrange,) which, if taken into consideration would ban all abortion with the exception of rape, incest, and danger to the mother.
10 medical groups including the Indiana State Medical Association, the Indiana Public Health Association, and the Indiana Section of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, wrote a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb and state legislators supporting the stated exceptions for the above cases.
The current bill allows abortion just in cases of “substantial permanent impairment of the life of the pregnant woman.”
However, an Indianapolis OB-GYN, Dr. Caroline Rouse, said there is “no distinct line between what threatens a patient’s health and what threatens their life.
She goes on to say, “Make no mistake, any abortion ban is unacceptable and will cost lives by forcing people to continue pregnancy rather than obtaining a needed abortion,” Rouse said. “By including these critical exceptions, Indiana’s horrifying abortion ban would at least give us the opportunity to save and protect some of our patients’ lives.”
Sen. Erin Grall (R-Florida)
In February of 2022, Florida Rep, Erin Grall spoke in support of moving the abortion ban from 24 to 15 weeks of gestational age and labeled it as “humane.” Gestational means the time period starting on “the first day of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.”
Legislative Republicans sent the HB 5 bill to the Senate, which, sponsored by Grall, would be Florida’s “most restrictive abortion law since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.” Lawmakers debated for more than five hours, which included Rep. Dana Trabulsy, (R-Fort Pierce,) telling her own abortion story and how she regretted the decision, while Rep. Tracie Davis, (D-Jacksonville), expressed why she decided to have an abortion herself, and why it was the right decision for her. Grall also told the chamber that “a uniquely human being” comes into existence,” right when a woman becomes pregnant.
In response to the “my body, my choice,” argument, Grall said, “The discussion is no longer just about that woman’s body because there are two bodies.”
The law would only allow abortions after 15 weeks if the mother’s life is in danger or if the mother is at risk of physical impairment if she carries to full term. The law also allows terminated pregnancy if two doctors authorize that a baby would not survive after birth.
Grall used a Mississippi Law as precedent for the HB5 bill, one that would shorten the abortion window by more than two months than the current U.S. legal window.
The Florida Senate passed the HB5 on the night of March 3, 2022, and was approved by Gov. DeSantis on April 14, 2022.
Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson)
Sen. Roegner is a sponsor of the six-week bill, which only has two exceptions, including allowing abortion if it is to avoid someone’s death or impairment, or if there is no heartbeat. Risk of death or impairment is defined as any “medically diagnosed condition that so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and reversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
This does not include any condition related to mental health.
In order for the abortion to be legally performed, there must be written documentation including the diagnosis and rationale for it for at least seven years prior.
The six-week bill is also considered the heartbeat bill, which makes abortion illegal once a heartbeat is detected, even though an embryo does not have a developed heart at six weeks of gestation.
Sen. Bryan Hughes R-Mineola
Sen. Bryan Hughes, (R-Mineola,) authored the heartbeat bill, saying, “The heartbeat is the universal sign of life. If a Texan’s heartbeat is detected, his or her life will be protected.”
The law defines a fetal heartbeat as, “a cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.”
A fellow at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who performs abortions said that the sound of the heart beating at six weeks is not a heartbeat, and is instead electrical impulses. In fact, the valves that create the heartbeat sound don’t even exist at six weeks. The flickering during ultrasounds are electrical impulses and the sound of a heartbeat is mimicked by the ultrasound machine.
Other laws similar to the heartbeat bill have been passed across the country but were blocked by federal courts. These bills are based on legislation from a Christian anti-abortion organization called Faith2Action Ministries.
A Call to Action
As we enter a new year, abortion legislation is sure to return to the forefront of lawmakers’ minds. As of now, 17 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect the right to abortion, but this could quickly change.
It is vital to keep up to date with the newest laws and proposed bills, many of which put women across the country in danger of losing the right to their own bodies.
The NY Times is tracking abortion bans here.