Four US states pass restrictive laws to oppose abortion access in major crackdown on reproductive rights

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Friday 15 March 2019 16:57
Comments
Pro-choice activists demonstrate against the Trump administration’s title X rule change in New York City
Pro-choice activists demonstrate against the Trump administration’s title X rule change in New York City

Four states in the US passed restrictive legislation opposing abortion access on Wednesday, as reproductive rights came under fire from all angles under the Trump administration.

State legislatures in Arkansas and Utah passed bans on most abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy – moving the states closer to enacting bans that could be among the strictest in America.

Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed its latest measure to place more restrictions on abortion.

The legislation would ban abortion for women seeking to end their pregnancies based on the foetus’s sex, race, colour, national origin – or potential diagnosis of Down’s syndrome or any disability.

“We will see the state of Kentucky in court (again),” the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, a state which only has one abortion provider, tweeted soon after the vote.

Doctors violating the measure would face felony prosecution and the loss of their medical licence and any clinic where a violation occurred would lose its licence.

In Kansas, legislators sent a message to their counterparts in New York about the law the state passed on the 46th anniversary of Roe V Wade that protects women’s access to abortion if the historic case is overturned.

Roe v Wade is the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion nationwide in 1973.

The Kansas House voted on Wednesday to approve the resolution, which declares that the New York law offends Kansas’s and the nation’s values and incites “abuse and violence towards women and their unborn children”.

“We need to stand as a group and stand up for the unborn babies in every state and nation,” state representative Barbara Wasinger, a Republican, said after likening abortion to the Holocaust.

Alarm bells have been raised that Roe v Wade could be overturned or radically undermined with new conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sitting on the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration took aim at Planned Parenthood last month by issuing a rule barring groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286m (£215m) federal family planning programme. The move is expected to redirect tens of millions of dollars from the women’s health provider to faith-based, anti-abortion groups.

Meanwhile, the “heartbeat bill” was passed by Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives last week.

The bill would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and aims to outlaw terminations carried out after a foetal heartbeat is detected. At six weeks, many women do not yet know they are pregnant.

Similar restrictions are under consideration in Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and South Carolina.

During a tense debate last week, at least 20 Democrats, who oppose the restrictions, turned their back on the bill’s Republican author, Ed Setzler. About six female Democrats protested against the vote by walking out of the chamber.

Earlier in the day, some Democrats had brought in wire coat hangers, in reference to unsafe home abortions.

If the anti-abortion bill passes the Georgia Senate and is signed into law by governor Brian Kemp, it would be among the most restrictive in the US. Women in Georgia currently have the right to undergo an abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

Mr Setzler, the heartbeat bill’s sponsor, branded abortion a “barbaric procedure” and said women who become pregnant still have options under his proposal, citing carrying a pregnancy to term and putting the baby up for adoption. His bill makes exceptions in cases of rape or incest but only after an official police report has been filed.

The heartbeat bill will almost certainly trigger legal challenges if it is passed by Georgia’s state Senate and signed into law.

But anti-abortion activists hope that such a challenge will lead to the US Supreme Court reversing Roe vs Wade. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that states cannot ban abortion before a foetus is viable – about 23 to 25 weeks.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in