With a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, a series of pro-life legislation has emerged, with pro-choice proposals to counter. Here is a summary of abortion bills currently being debated and laws that have recently been passed.
On January 9, bill S.1209 (the ROE Act) was proposed. It seeks to “remove obstacles and expand abortion access,” specifically in regard to late-term abortions. After 24 weeks, a doctor may perform an abortion “to protect the patient’s life or physical or mental health.” The language is vague, which could lead to more late-term abortions for non-life-threatening cases. The bill also removes the requirement for parental consent for minors. The bill was back in public debate on April 2, when Governor Charlie Baker claimed that he opposes it. He still supports the current abortion law saying “It’s worked well for decades for women and families here in Massachusetts.”
On March 29, Georgia’s House narrowly passed a bill criminalizing abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs three to six weeks after conception. This would make the window for a legal abortion significantly shorter than the current law, which abortion within 20 weeks. Governor Brian Kemp is currently reviewing the bill but is expected to sign it soon. Once ratified, it is likely that the law will be challenged in courts.
Many pro-life groups consider the bill a victory. A point of praise has been the language of the bill defining a fetus as a person with human rights. However, some pro-life groups are not satisfied with the exceptions of rape and incest, medical danger to the mother, and an inviable pregnancy highlighted in the bill.
The bill has sparked widespread protests from abortion supporters, especially those in Hollywood.
Mississippi also signed a heartbeat bill into law on March 21, with Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas expected to propose bills later in the year.
On March 26, Kentucky passed what has been called a “trigger bill.” Trigger bills are legislation stating that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will be made illegal in the state. Kentucky’s law also has a clause that could criminalize abortion if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants states the authority to determine local abortion laws.
Earlier, on February 19, Arkansas passed a trigger bill into law. Currently, six states have trigger laws: Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Each law has a unique combination of exceptions for cases of mother endangerment, rape, and incest. Missouri and Tennessee have recently introduced trigger bills, on February 27 and February 6, respectively. All trigger bills and laws list abortion as a felony charge for the physician with varying sentences attached.
Oklahoma & South Carolina
In early February, Oklahoma and South Carolina proposed “personhood acts.” The bills define the beginning of life as conception and assert that the life in the womb is a person with human rights. These personhood acts are a first step for pro-life legislation, as changing the definition of human life allows for future abortion limitations and bans.
On April 2, Alabama proposed a bill that would outlaw all abortion, regardless of the federal government. Roe v. Wade would be deemed invalid in the state. Abortion would be a felony charge for the physician, with a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The bills provide an exception for severe health risks. Indiana proposed a similar bill in January, but with no exceptions.
Texas and Washington have also proposed full abortion bans earlier this year, with one major difference. They include potential murder charges for the physician and the mother. During a public hearing in Texas on April 8, many abortion supporters were quick to point out that Texas has capital punishment for some murder cases, leading them to state that abortion will be a crime punishable by death. Punishment of the mother disturbs both pro-life and pro-choice groups. Many pro-life groups consider the mother a second victim, rather than a perpetrator of abortion.
On April 11, the Supreme Court of South Korea deemed a 66-year-old law banning abortion unconstitutional, leading to the decriminalization of abortion by 2020. Abortion after 20 weeks will still be illegal. Abortion was a crime punishable by fines and up to two years in prison for the mother and physician. This law was rarely enforced. Parliament has until 2020 to revise the current law, or it will be made null and void.