Some States Restrict Abortion After Dobbs Ruling As Others Protect Access

How states are reacting to Roe v. Wade being overturned. Since last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that upended reproductive freedom in America, states have been moving to either restrict or protect abortion access.

Passing new bans on abortions will take at least a little time. But a number of states had “trigger laws”—bans set to be automatically triggered should Roe v. Wade be overturned—already on the books, banning abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy or entirely banning the procedure except in instances where a woman’s life is at risk.

Restricting Abortion Access

Some states’ trigger laws took effect as soon as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was handed down last Friday. States with immediately triggered bans include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah. Abortion clinics in some of these states have already started to suspend operations. Other trigger laws—in Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming—will take effect within 30 days. The one remaining abortion clinic in North Dakota is preparing to move across the border to Minnesota before then.

Some states have passed bans in recent years that courts said they couldn’t enforce. This last group may now appeal to be able to enforce these bans—and some already have. Eight hours after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, “a federal judge dissolved a three-year-old block on Ohio’s ‘heartbeat’ anti-abortion law, allowing it to go into effect,” reports Cleveland.com. “That means that Ohio women will no longer be allowed to have abortions in the state when fetal cardiac activity is detected. That’s around six weeks, or before many women know they are pregnant.”

Other states had pre-Roe bans that weren’t being enforced but now can. For instance, an 1849 Wisconsin law still on the books says that performing an abortion except to save a woman’s life is a felony. Uncertain as to how this old law now applies, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has for now stopped performing abortions.

In total, 20 states have either already banned abortion at all or most points in pregnancy or are likely to do so soon, according to a Washington Post analysis. Reason‘s Jacob Sullum has a thorough rundown of existing state laws (including those designed to protect abortion access) here.

Some states with abortion bans are already mobilizing to stop residents from obtaining abortions in other states too. In South Dakota, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem told CBS’s Face the Nation that she’s urging state lawmakers to keep people from being prescribed abortion pills through remote appointments with out-of-state doctors.

Protecting Abortion Access

As conservative-led states rush to stop abortions, states with pro-choice leaders have been moving to protect abortion access—not just for their own residents but for people traveling from states where abortion is illegal.

In Washington, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said his administration will protect the privacy and identities of people who travel from other states to get abortions. “We are not going to allow that data to get back to Texas or Missouri or Idaho,” Inslee declared, saying that Washington would become a “sanctuary” for abortion rights. “The governor also plans to direct state police to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement from other states seeking to enforce anti-abortion laws, and said he’ll push for legislation to impose similar bans on other police agencies within the state,” reports Bloomberg.

Washington state is not alone in issuing such promises.

Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, issued an executive order Saturday declaring that state agencies must “protect people or entities who are providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining lawful reproductive health care services in Minnesota “and that”No state agency may provide any information or expend or use time, money, facilities, property, equipment, personnel, or other resources in furtherance of any investigation or proceeding that seeks to impose civil or criminal liability or professional sanctions upon a person or entity” for providing or obtaining an abortion or assisting someone in doing so.

Calling the situation “absolutely dystopian,” Walz promised to “use all legal authority of this office to decline to extradite people who are charged under other states’ laws that criminalize providing, seeking, or obtaining reproductive health care services.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has issued an order very similar to the one in Minnesota. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed a law to protect people assisting out-of-state travelers in obtaining an abortion in California. “We know that states like Missouri are already targeting women seeking abortions in states like California where abortion remains legal,” he announced. “This legislation seeks to protect women and care providers from civil liability imposed by other states, and sends a clear message that California will continue to be a safe haven for all women seeking reproductive health care services in our state.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking Michigan’s Supreme Court to immediately take up her lawsuit concerning abortion access in her state. “We need to clarify that under Michigan law, access to abortion is not only legal, but constitutionally protected,” the Democrat explained in a statement.

Michigan is a state with an old abortion ban on the books, leaving the matter of abortion’s legality in the state now unclear. “With today’s US Supreme Court decision, Michigan’s extreme 1931 law banning abortion without exceptions for rape or incest and criminalizing doctors and nurses who provide reproductive care is poised to take effect,” Whitmer noted.

The Private Sector Takes Action

Government officials aren’t the only ones pushing back against new abortion restrictions.

In some places, groups are already challenging new abortion bans in court. For instance, Planned Parenthood of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have sued to stop a Utah abortion ban that was triggered Friday.

In Florida, where a 15-week abortion ban is set to take effect July 1, a Boynton Beach synagogue has filed a suit arguing that the law violates its members’ religious liberty. Separately, a group of Florida health care providers is also suing to stop the ban.

Meanwhile, some private companies are moving to ensure that their employees have access to legal abortions even in states where bans exist. These companies—including such major names as Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Apple, Cigna, Citigroup, Conde Nast, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Disney, Lyft, Microsoft, Morgan Chase, and Paypal—have pledged to cover travel costs for employees who have to go out of state for an abortion.

“It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions,” says Reuters. But “for many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.”

Reuters reports that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 has for decades been interpreted “to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.” But it “cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion.”

More from Reason on the Dobbs decision:

• Alito’s Abortion Ruling Overturning Roe Is an Insult to the 9th Amendment

• States Can’t Ban Out-of-State Travel To Get Abortions, Writes Kavanaugh

• John Roberts and the Path SCOTUS Did Not Take on Abortion

• Clarence Thomas Calls To ‘Reconsider’ Gay Marriage, Sodomy Rulings


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