The move to overturn Roe v. Wade: La. latest to pass an abortion ban. Here's where other key states stand.
Tough abortion laws in Alabama and several other states face legal battles in court. Here's how they take aim at Roe v. Wade. USA TODAY
In passing its strict abortion ban, Louisiana has joined the ranks of conservative states hoping to push the deeply emotional issue before the U.S. Supreme Court even as they energize abortion rights forces for a high-stakes political showdown.
In a 79-23 vote, the Louisiana House gave final passage Wednesday to a bill barring abortion once there’s a detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Deep South’s only Democratic governor, signed the bill into law Thursday, despite opposition from national party leaders who say such laws are attacks on women.
“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me – and I respect their opinions,” Edwards said in a statement after the ban was passed.
Following in the wake of Alabama, Mississippi and Ohio, the Louisiana law does not include an exception for a pregnancy caused by rape or incest.
The ban would go into effect only if neighboring Mississippi’s law is upheld by a federal appeals court. A federal judge temporarily blocked the Mississippi law last week.
Louisiana is the latest state to pass a so-called heartbeat bill that would, in effect, prohibit an abortion before women even know they are pregnant.
Most of Wednesday’s somber debate had focused on whether to add an exception for rape or incest.
“I am not man enough to tell a woman who has had her insides ripped apart and been raped," Democratic Rep. Ted James said. "I’m not man enough to tell that woman, ‘You know what? Live with it.’”
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted similar heartbeat bills, while Missouri has adopted an eight-week ban on abortion.
While none of the bans have taken effect, they have staked out a path for challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationally.
Many of the states have long been active in their anti-abortion efforts but now find the political atmosphere under the Trump administration more supportive, particularly with the addition of two conservative justices on the high court.
In response, abortion rights forces have used the new laws to rally their supporters.
Last week, thousands of abortion rights marchers turned out nationwide in protests organized by #StopTheBans aimed at what the group calls a "new wave of extreme bans on abortion."
"We will show up to speak out and fight back against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe and punish women," the movement says on its website. "Politicians shouldn't be making decisions best left to women, their families, and their doctors."
In this highly charged atmosphere, the Supreme Court has moved gingerly, without offering a clear signal as to its view of Roe.
This week, in an apparent compromise in a case from Indiana, high court justices turned down an appeal that asked the court to reinstate a state law banning abortions sought solely because of the sex or disability of a fetus.
However, it upheld part of the same law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains.
Here's a look at where key states stand on abortion:
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration has started its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that struck down the state's abortion law that would halt a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies.
U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. has ruled that the 2018 law would create a "substantial obstacle" to a woman's right to an abortion, violating constitutionally protected privacy rights.
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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill last week that bans abortions at or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, without exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
The measure would require that both parents be notified in order for a minor to get an abortion, with exceptions. In addition, it would include a ban on abortions based on race, sex or a "prenatal diagnosis, test or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome in an unborn child."
The new law threatens to force the closure of the state's lone abortion clinic, making the state the only one in the nation without a licensed abortion provider.
The governor has defended a state investigation into the facility and urged a judge not to intervene.
Planned Parenthood has sued the state Department of Health and Senior Services, accusing it of unlawfully refusing to renew the St. Louis clinic's license, which expires Friday, over demands to interview physicians for the investigation.
Alabama's law, passed last week, makes performing virtually all abortions a crime, a Class A felony punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison. The bill, signed by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, provides no exception for rape or incest.
"It is clearer than ever that Roe is far from being settled law in the eyes and hearts of the American people, and this is increasingly reflected in state legislatures," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion advocacy group, said in a statement after Alabama adopted the ban. "The American people want a fresh debate and a new direction, achieved by consensus and built on love for both mothers and babies. The time is coming for the Supreme Court to let that debate go forward.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have filed lawsuits challenging the law.
"The bill that ... is an all-out abortion ban. But make no mistake: Women across the country see what is happening, and they are going to be the deciding voters in the 2020 election," said Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood.
Gov. Brian Kemp touched off a firestorm of protest last week after signing his state's anti-abortion "heartbeat bill." The outcry prompted Kemp to delay an annual trip to Los Angeles to promote Georgia’s burgeoning film industry.
Amid growing opposition from movie executives, producers and actors, Netflix says it is reconsidering its "entire investment" in the state. Disney CEO Bob Iger told Reuters on Wednesday that it would be "very difficult" to keep filming in Georgia if the new abortion law takes effect because many industry people will not want to work in the state.
NBCUniversal joined Netflix, Disney and WarnerMedia in a statement Ton the issue, saying they expect the bills will face serious legal challenges and won't take effect. "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future,” they said in a joint statement.
A federal judge blocked the state's heartbeat bill last week that bans abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and does not allow exceptions for rape or incest.
In issuing a preliminary injunction, Judge Carlton Reeves said the law "threatens immediate harm to women's rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortions services until after six weeks."
The bill was signed in March by Gov. Phil Bryant. The state's 2018 law banning abortions after 15 weeks was struck down in federal court in November. The state attorney general filed papers in April to appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, heartbeat bills have passed one chamber of the Legislature in Tennessee and have been introduced in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The bills hit at the nexus of the abortion debate and frames the act in stark, emotional terms: Proponents argue that preserving life outweighs arguments against government interference in personal, medical decisions.
The governor of Georgia is set to sign one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, the "fetal heartbeat" bill. Dozens of celebrities have signed a letter against the passing of the bill. USA TODAY
The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group focused on sexual and reproductive health issues, finds the abortion debate ranges from seven states deemed "very hostile" to abortion rights (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota) to one state (California) considered "very supportive."
The institute says legislation is under consideration in more than 25 states to ban abortion in a variety of ways.
These include "trigger bans" that would automatically make abortion illegal if Roe is overturned; "method bans" that would bar providers from performing a specific type of abortion; "reason bans" that would prohibit abortion based on fetal characteristics, such as sex, race or disability status; and "gestational age bans," prohibiting an abortion at a specific point in pregnancy, such as six, 18 or 20 weeks after the last menstrual period.
In April, North Dakota's Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill outlawing a second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation.
The law, which includes the non-medical term “human dismemberment abortion," makes it a crime for doctors to use instruments such as clamps, scissors and forceps to remove the fetus from the womb during the second trimester.
Women getting the procedure would not be charged, but doctors performing it would face a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. An exception exists for medical emergencies.
Legal roadblocks and opportunities
Kentucky's bill has been stymied by a federal court order blocking enforcement, and the first-in-the-nation bill passed by North Dakota in 2013 was ruled unconstitutional, as was one passed last year in Iowa.
To many anti-abortion voices, legal challenges are the point.
“The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis told the Associated Press last month.
“While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies."
Likewise, abortion rights backers see the courts as an avenue to create precedents to fortify their position.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the passage of the Alabama bill a "heartbreaking and unconstitutional assault on basic reproductive freedoms."
"I don’t want to be a fearmonger, but I do believe they’re trying to go on a path that will totally dismantle Roe v. Wade and we have to be vigilant and express our concerns on this,” Pelsoi, a Democrat, told reporters Thursday.
Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said recently that the attempts to go after Roe have been going on for a decade, but now the opponents "are out in the open as to their goal."
Meanwhile, she says, states are also passing other laws, such as narrowly restricting clinic options for women, that are "quietly pushing abortion out of the reach for thousands of women."
Dalven also notes that the Supreme Court already has a number of abortion-related cases that it could take up immediately it if wanted to and does not have to wait for a "heartbeat" abortion challenge to work its way up the appeals track.
In a new twist in the legal wrangling, state abortion laws could face a potential obstacle: prosecutors who refuse to enforce them.
The Associated Press reached out to nearly two dozen district attorneys across seven states, and several said they would not file criminal charges against doctors who violate the laws. Even a few who left open potentially charging doctors said they would not prosecute women for having an abortion, which some legal observers say could be a possibility under Georgia’s law.
“I am never going to enforce a law that’s unconstitutional, and furthermore, especially not one that targets women and girls,” said David Cooke, chief prosecutor in Macon, Georgia, about 80 miles southeast of Atlanta.
The four district attorneys who said they would not enforce the laws at all cited the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, saying their states’ abortion laws clearly conflict with that decision.
Divide over abortion in America
Laws against abortion are by no means a slam-dunk, even in red states. Proposed heartbeat bans failed to pass this year in Texas and fell short in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
In addition, 13 states have introduced legislation that would establish legal protections for abortion or repeal what they view as outdated abortion laws.
In January, New York adopted the "Reproductive Health Act" that affirms the right to abortion until the fetus is viable and when the patient’s life or health is at risk.
It joins nine other states in establishing legal protections for abortion. Similar bills have passed the first legislative chamber in New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Contributing: Associated Press