Last week, Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States. With no exceptions for rape or incest, it’s designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the courts and rip the constitutional right to an abortion from every American woman. And because news in Trump’s America is a nightmare that will only end by voting in 2020, Alabama is just the latest (and most dramatic) example of a red state attempting to roll back abortion rights. Because there’s nothing like going back to a time when desperate women died from back-alley abortions to make America truly great again.
While Alabama’s abortion ban is pretty easy to understand (no abortions for anyone unless you’re likely to die without one), other states have found trickier ways to force women to give birth when they don’t want to. These incremental rollbacks are much more likely to make it to the Supreme Court than Alabama’s categorical ban, and are designed to chip away at abortion access one insurmountable hurdle after the other. Here are 5 examples of how states are restricting access to women’s constitutional right to access abortion:
1. The Full Ban
As of right now, Alabama is the only state rocking the full ban, which does not include exceptions in cases of rape or incest, but only when the mother’s life is in danger. That means if an 11-year-old girl were impregnated by her own father (it’s happened before), she would have to carry that baby to term. But tell me again how Handmaid’s Tale is just a show.
2. Time-Based Bans
These bans dramatically compress the time during which women can end a pregnancy — the type we’ve seen passed recently both in Georgia and Ohio (6 weeks) and Missouri (8 weeks). Often referred to as “fetal heartbeat bills” these bills seek to ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks. The tricky part about these bans is that most women don’t even realize that they’ve missed a period by six weeks and therefore could be pregnant. Women with irregular periods or cycles are at an even higher risk of realizing they’re pregnant too late to get an abortion. Also at risk are women who are on the types of birth control that might eliminate a regular period altogether. These women may not realize in time that their birth control has failed. Considering my period seems to come based solely on when it would be the most inconvenient, the idea of having a two-week window to realize something’s wrong is f*cking terrifying.
Current legal precedent, as determined by 1992’s Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, basically protects women’s right to access abortion up to around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the time of fetal “viability” or when the fetus could survive outside the womb. States are allowed to apply regulations before that period, as long as they don’t create an “undue burden” for women trying to access the procedure. The problem is, almost all of them do. Some federal courts are currently considering whether bans at 6 weeks create this “undue burden.” Um, duh?
3. Bans Targeting Clinics
These laws aim to make accessing abortion as onerous and expensive as possible in lieu of straight up banning the procedure. They’re a group of laws commonly referred to as TRAP laws, or targeted regulation of abortion providers, and 24 states currently have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers beyond what is medically necessary to ensure patient safety. Some examples include requiring doctors who perform abortions to have to admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, which creates a host of problems and inconveniences. (In some states the majority of hospitals are affiliated with the Catholic Church and will not admit doctors who perform abortions.) Some states have required that abortion clinics meet “ambulatory surgical center regulations,” which often would require cost-prohibitive renovations for a clinic to be compliant. Medical practitioners and public health groups have deemed these restrictions medically unnecessary.
The Supreme Court has already blocked a number of these restrictions, concluding that they create an “undue burden” for women trying to access abortion services. In February, SCOTUS blocked Louisiana’s admitting privileges law that would have left just one clinic in the state from going into effect. But the block is temporary, and the Supreme Court is currently considering whether to add the case to its 2019 docket and decide whether it’s constitutional. Meanwhile, abortion providers in Kentucky are currently challenging a law related to ambulatory requirements.
4. Laws Targeting Women
There are lots of laws that seek to dissuade, inconvenience, or shame women into not getting an abortion. Currently, 11 states have laws mandating transvaginal ultrasounds (aka putting a giant rod up your cooter) so that women can “see the fetus” before going through with an abortion. Long waiting periods are also common, which can have a profound impact on low-income women because it requires patients to 1) travel to far away clinics since these laws are found most heavily in states with very few clinics 2) take off work for the duration and waiting period and 3) put themselves up in a nearby hotel for that time. Some laws also make it legal to straight-up lie to women about their abortions by forcing doctors to read a “prepared script” full of misinformation, including that an abortion can cause breast cancer (it cannot).
In South Dakota, women seeking abortions are required by law to get anti-abortion counseling at crisis pregnancy centers, which are essentially fake abortion clinics that have been found to give people misleading or false information about their pregnancy to trick them into not having an abortion. In some cases, crisis pregnancy centers have promised women financial support for their baby, then ghosted the woman once she got past the legal limit to have her abortion. How Christian of them.
5. Laws Targeting Types of Abortions
As you may know, there are two main types of abortion: dilation and curettage, which may include vacuum aspiration (surgical abortion) or medical abortion, which uses two pills. Oklahoma lawmakers have tried to ban and restrict use of the abortion bill, and its Supreme Court blocked both attempts. States often use the FDA to justify these restrictions, which mandates very specific protocol and bans prescribing the pills via telemedicine, which would enhance access for millions of women in rural America.
Wow. I’m shook from even writing about all of that. If this has you terrified and wanting to help, check out our article How to Help Women in States with Extreme Abortion Bans for state and regionally-specific info, or check in with your local Planned Parenthood.
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