US: Conflict over abortion laws won't abate if Roe v. Wade falls

Texas abortion ban stays in force as justices mull outcome

  Texas abortion ban stays in force as justices mull outcome WASHINGTON (AP) — More than two weeks have passed since the Supreme Court's extraordinarily rushed arguments over Texas' unique abortion law without any word from the justices. They raised expectations of quick action by putting the case on a rarely used fast track. And yet, to date, the court's silence means that women cannot get an abortion in Texas, the second-largest state, after about six weeks of pregnancy. That's before some women knowThey raised expectations of quick action by putting the case on a rarely used fast track. And yet, to date, the court's silence means that women cannot get an abortion in Texas, the second-largest state, after about six weeks of pregnancy.

On both sides of America’s abortion debate, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion — is imperiled as never before.

FILE - A 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas is escorted down the hall by clinic administrator Kathaleen Pittman prior to getting an abortion, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La. The woman was one of more than a dozen patients who arrived at the abortion clinic, mostly from Texas, where the nation's most restrictive abortion law remains in effect. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - A 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas is escorted down the hall by clinic administrator Kathaleen Pittman prior to getting an abortion, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La. The woman was one of more than a dozen patients who arrived at the abortion clinic, mostly from Texas, where the nation's most restrictive abortion law remains in effect. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File) FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on the first day of the new term as activists demonstrate on the plaza, in Washington, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Arguments are planned for December challenging Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court's major decisions over the last half-century that guarantee a woman's right to an abortion nationwide. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on the first day of the new term as activists demonstrate on the plaza, in Washington, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Arguments are planned for December challenging Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court's major decisions over the last half-century that guarantee a woman's right to an abortion nationwide. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Yet no matter how the current conservative-dominated court handles pending high-profile abortion cases — perhaps weakening Roe, perhaps gutting it completely — there will be no monolithic, nationwide change. Fractious state-by-state battles over abortion access will continue.

Conflict over abortion laws won't abate if Roe v. Wade falls

  Conflict over abortion laws won't abate if Roe v. Wade falls On both sides of America’s abortion debate, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion — is imperiled as never before. Yet no matter how the current conservative-dominated court handles pending high-profile abortion cases — perhaps weakening Roe, perhaps gutting it completely — there will be no monolithic, nationwide change. Fractious state-by-state battles over abortion access will continue. Roe's demise would likely prompt at least 20 Republican-governed states to impose sweeping bans; perhaps 15 Democratic-governed states would reaffirm support for abortion access.

Roe's demise would likely prompt at least 20 Republican-governed states to impose sweeping bans; perhaps 15 Democratic-governed states would reaffirm support for abortion access.

More complicated would be politically divided states where fights over abortion laws could be ferocious — and likely become a volatile issue in the 2022 elections.

“Many of these states are one election away from a vastly different political landscape when it comes to abortion,” said Jessica Arons, a reproductive rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Those states include Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which now have Democratic governors and Republican-controlled legislatures. GOP gubernatorial victories next year could position those states to join others in imposing bans if Roe were nullified.

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The net effect on abortion prevalence is difficult to predict, given that many people in states with bans would persist in seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Some could face drives of hundreds of miles to reach the nearest clinic; others might obtain abortion pills by mail to end a pregnancy on their own.

This preview image of an AP digital embed map shows states with laws that would ban all or most abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Digital Embed) © Provided by Associated Press This preview image of an AP digital embed map shows states with laws that would ban all or most abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Digital Embed)

Among the briefs filed with the Supreme Court as it considers a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks is one reflecting input from 154 economists and researchers. If abortions became illegal in 23 states, they calculate, the number of abortions at clinics nationwide would fall by about 14%, or about 120,000, in the following year.

Abortion-rights activists predict women of color, rural residents, low-income women, and LGBTQ people would be disproportionately affected.

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  An Irish tale of warning on American abortion What happens when abortion is made illegal or unavailable is clear and a cautionary tale as the U.S. enters a post-Roe era. Ireland offers a human-rights-infused way forward for abortion rights in the U.S. and indeed globally. After 35 years of a regime that banned all abortion, Ireland now provides safe, legal and funded services throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. American abortion activists rallying to "Save Roe" would do well to look across the pond for inspiration and examples of successful human-rights-based strategies.

Under this scenario, the economists say, bans would affect 26 million women of child-rearing age, and the average distance to the nearest abortion clinic would increase from 35 miles (56 kilometers) to 279 miles (449 kilometers).

Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, says a gutting of Roe would galvanize some Democratic-governed states and abortion-rights groups to accelerate programs assisting people to cross state lines for abortions.

“But things will get complicated and difficult very quickly,” she said. “You’re disrupting the entire abortion care network across the country, and people will be seeking abortion in locations which may not have enough capacity for people in their state already.”

A possible preview is unfolding at Planned Parenthood's clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. It opened in 2019 as an abortion option for people from Missouri and other nearby Republican-governed states. It's seeing an increase in patients from farther away as a tough ban in Texas creates appointment backlogs throughout the south-central U.S.

Mississippi asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in blockbuster abortion case

  Mississippi asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in blockbuster abortion case The state's legal argument is the sharpest framing yet of the dispute as Mississippi engages in a frontal assault on the right to abortion.The high court agreed in May to hear a challenge to Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, giving its new, six-member conservative majority a chance to roll back the 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to abortion.

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sitting in while the court listened to arguments in a Missouri abortion case.  On both sides of America’s abortion debate, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade – the 1973  Supreme Court ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion – is imperiled as never before.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sitting in while the court listened to arguments in a Missouri abortion case. On both sides of America’s abortion debate, activists are convinced that Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion – is imperiled as never before.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer for reproductive health services in the St. Louis region, said the clinic is bracing for a possible influx of an additional 14,000 women per year seeking abortion services if post-Roe bans proliferate.

“We’re absolutely thinking about what operational changes we would need — staying open seven days a week, operating two shifts each day – to absorb that many patients,” she said.

Already, patients are “super frustrated” by drives of up to nine hours from home, she said.

Michael New, an abortion opponent who teaches social research at The Catholic University of America, said possible increases of out-of-state abortions and “mail-order abortions” would be among several challenges facing the anti-abortion movement even as its dream of Roe’s demise came true.

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Another potential challenge: Some Democratic-leaning prosecutors might refuse to enforce bans.

Michigan, for example, has a 90-year-old ban on the books. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, says she wouldn't enforce it if it became law; a local prosecutor, Democrat Eli Savit in Washtenaw County, tweeted, “We will never, ever prosecute any person for exercising reproductive freedom.”

FILE - Anti-abortion demonstrators pray and protest outside of a Whole Women's Health of North Texas, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in McKinney, Texas. A federal judge did not say when he would rule following a nearly three-hour hearing in Austin during which abortion providers sought to block the nation's most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions in Texas since early September. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File): Abortion What if Roe Crumbles © Provided by Associated Press Abortion What if Roe Crumbles

While there’s a consensus that Roe is more vulnerable than ever, there's no certainty about how the Supreme Court might proceed. Clues will surface on Dec. 1, when justices hear arguments in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In that case, Mississippi is asking the court to overrule Roe and a follow-up 1992 decision that prevents states from banning abortion before viability, the point around 24 weeks of pregnancy when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

If the court simply upholds Mississippi's ban, other Republican-governed states would likely enact similar measures. The Guttmacher Institute says between 6.3% and 7.4% of U.S. abortions, or 54,000 to 63,000 annually, are obtained at or after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

However, activists on opposing sides believe the high court — either in the Mississippi case or a subsequent one — is poised to go further, nullifying Roe so states would be free to impose sweeping bans.

“For nearly 50 years, states have been prevented from passing abortion laws that reflect the values of people who live there,” said Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. “Dobbs is the best opportunity since 1973 to correct that.”

Lone Mississippi clinic on front line of U.S. Supreme Court abortion battle

  Lone Mississippi clinic on front line of U.S. Supreme Court abortion battle Lone Mississippi clinic on front line of U.S. Supreme Court abortion battleJACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) - As a car drove into the parking lot of Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic, the only abortion provider in the state of Mississippi, anti-abortion activist Beverly Anderson leaned in to speak to the woman in the passenger's seat.

Wisconsin could become one of the most contested battlegrounds, since it still has in its statutes an 1849 law criminalizing abortion. But even if the law took effect, it might not be enforced if next year’s election leaves Democrats serving as governor, attorney general and as district attorneys in Milwaukee and Madison, which are home to abortion clinics.

The 2022 elections are likely to energize activists in each camp, says Julaine Appling, an abortion opponent who leads the Wisconsin Family Council.

“The smart candidates running on either side will say it makes a huge difference who is governor and who is attorney general,” she said. “Wisconsin is very purple — and we’ve got a real fight on our hands on this issue.”

When Roe was decided, abortion was broadly legal in four states, allowed under limited circumstances in 16 others, and outlawed under nearly all circumstances elsewhere. In 1974, a year after Roe, there were about 900,000 abortions in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Abortions rose steadily, peaking at 1.61 million in 1990, before a steady decline — falling to 862,000 in Guttmacher’s latest survey, covering 2017. The decline is attributed to increased availability of effective contraception and a plunge in unintended pregnancies, notably among teens.

Women also have safer, easier options for terminating pregnancies; medication abortions now account for about 40% of U.S. abortions. Advocacy groups are spreading the word about abortion pills that can be used at home without a medical professional’s involvement.

Increased use of mail-order pills could pose a dilemma for the anti-abortion movement, given that its leaders generally say they don’t favor criminalizing the actions of women seeking abortions. Pills often are shipped from overseas; those suppliers are an elusive target for prosecutors.

Arons, the ACLU lawyer, says anti-abortion activists are deluding themselves if they think post-Roe bans can enable them to live in abortion-free states.

“People who want to end their pregnancies will find a way to do so, whether it’s legal or not,” she said. “The need will always be there.”

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

SCOTUS to Hear Biggest Abortion Case Since Roe, Where Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch Stand .
SCOTUS' 6-3 conservative majority could overturn Roe v. Wade when justices take up the biggest legal challenge to abortion rights since the 1973 landmark case.On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization—a case challenging both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

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