If the Supreme Court ultimately votes to strike down Roe v. Wade, states would control whether and in what circumstances abortion is legal — and data shows that battle is already raging.
About 500 abortion restriction measures are pending or have been enacted in more than 40 states this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that studies reproductive health rights and supports abortion rights. Dozens of bills have passed through at least one chamber in the first four months of the year, and governors in nine states have signed restrictions into law.
The legislation varies in scope, from access limits, counseling requirements and parental consent to outright bans and bans on medication abortions or the mailing of abortion pills.
Of the measures signed into law this year, all but Kentucky’s were approved by Republican governors. Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode the Democratic governor’s veto to approve bans on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, among other restrictions. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the law.
A ban in Oklahoma, which will go into effect in August if it is not challenged, will make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion indicates that the court has the votes to roll back federal abortion protections. The court confirmed the authenticity of the draft Tuesday but said “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
Still, the fight over abortion is increasingly being fought in state legislative chambers.
“With the Supreme Court on the precipice of overturning Roe v. Wade, state legislatures will become the main battleground for protecting abortion rights in America,” Vicky Hausman, a co-founder of Forward Majority, a political group that funds and supports Democratic candidates in state legislative races, said in a statement. “We can no longer count on the federal government or the courts.”
More states passing bills that restrict abortion care would result in “two Americas,” Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said in an interview last year.
“If you’re living pretty much anywhere in the middle of the country or the South, abortion could very well be, effectively, banned to a large extent,” Nash said.