As the the nation continues debating the legality of abortion, new laws are being passed and bills are being proposed in several states. This activity has prompted an update for the abortion legislation article published in May. Here are some of the further developments.
On May 16, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act into law. The most restrictive abortion law in the United States, it fully bans abortion and punishes participating physicians with a murder charge. The language of the law defines the beginning of human life as conception, with the unborn child having individual rights. The only exceptions are for health risks to the child’s mother, as in the case of ectopic pregnancies.
On June 12, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law that drastically expands abortion access in the state. The Reproductive Healthcare Act asserts that women have a “fundamental right” to choose to have an abortion. This law repeals waiting periods and abortion practice restrictions set by previous Illinois laws, and lifts any criminal punishment for performing an abortion. The law also states that “a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights,” eliminating any language of personhood for the unborn.
The Catholic Church in Illinois has not been silent in the wake of the new legislation. When the bill was passed in the Senate on June 2, the Bishop of Springfield made a statement officially barring any state legislators from receiving Holy Communion within his Diocese. Bishop Thomas Paprocki added that to be readmitted to Communion, lawmakers must have “truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal.”
The bishop issued the decree partly to start a conversation for all Catholics and reaffirm that a pro-choice position is antithetical to the teachings of the Church. This is not his first time doing so, as last year Paprocki banned Illinois Senator Dick Durbin from Communion for his advocacy of abortion.
On May 28, the Supreme Court of the United States reached what many are labeling a compromise in an abortion law case from Indiana. In Box vs. Planned Parenthood, the plaintiffs challenged a 2016 law signed by then-governor, now Vice President Mike Pence. The law banned abortions of the basis of sex, gender, or disability, and set restrictions for the disposal of the remains of unborn children, only allowing for burial or cremation rather than disposal. This law was originally struck down by the courts, making its way to the Supreme Court.
The decision upheld the restrictions for the disposal of fetal remains, but did not allow for the ban on abortions on the basis of sex, gender, or disability. The court opinion released was short and provided no details about the specific reasoning behind the decision. The release did clarify that the fetal remains decision was not related to the debate concerning abortion access.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas warned about the use of abortion for eugenic purposes. Thomas discussed the eugenic views of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Thomas indicated that the court might revisit this issue in the future, writing, "Given the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation, the Court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s. But...I join the Court in declining to take up the issue now."
Against party lines, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed a heartbeat bill into law on May 30. The bill has no exceptions for rape or incest, but there are exceptions for health risks. Edwards has been vocal about building bipartisan support for pro-life legislation. He states that signing the law shows he is being consistent with his promises while campaigning.
On May 24, following the precedent set by Georgia, Missouri signed a law that bans abortion after eight weeks or the detection of a fetal heartbeat. After approving the bill, Governor Mike Parson stated that “all life has value and is worth protecting.” The law has an exception for medical emergencies endangering the life of the mother, but not for rape or incest. The law also includes a clause that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will be fully banned in Missouri.
On June 10, Governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law expanding abortion practices by allowing nurse practitioners and other non-doctor medical professionals to perform abortions. She supported the legislation so that women in rural areas could receive abortions. Similar bills have been signed in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Governor Steve Sisolak signed the Trust Women Act on May 31. The law expands certain abortion procedures and drugs by removing legal restrictions. Additionally, the law eliminates the requirement for physicians to describe to their patients the emotional consequences of an abortion. Instead, the medical professional must state the general “nature” of the procedure. Physicians are also no longer required to write down the marital status of a woman seeking an abortion.