A hectic week for abortion policy with laws and lawsuits
Nine months after the U.S. Supreme Court ended a nationwide right to an abortion, the landscape is far from settled, with lawmakers considering broader bans or stronger protections and legal challenges popping up nationwide.
It's been a hectic week for abortion policy with Republican-dominated states seeking to tighten restrictions, Democratic lawmakers trying to protect abortion access — and court fights playing out on multiple fronts.
Here’s what’s happening:
WHAT'S THE STATUS OF ABORTION PILLS?
This question lies at the heart of the most closely watched current abortion-related lawsuit.
A combination of two drugs is the nation's most common method for ending pregnancies.
But Alliance Defending Freedom, which opposed abortion, has asked a Texas judge to revoke or suspend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 2000 approval of one of the drugs, mifepristone. The legal question looms as the Biden Administration is working on rules to make the pills more widely available and pharmacies and states sort out whether that will happen.
After a hearing last week, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, sitting in Amarillo, Texas, said he would rule “as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon became the first in the nation to sign a bill specifically banning abortion pills. It's to take effect July. Thirteen states already had blanket bans on all forms of abortion and 15 had limits on access, such as requiring that the pills be dispensed only and directly by doctors.
The same day Gordon signed that, California Democrats introduced a measure intended to offer legal protection to doctors who mail abortion pills to patients in other states. A handful of other Democrat-controlled states have proposed or adopted similar laws already.
WHAT NEW BANS ARE IN PLACE?
Wyoming's Gordon also allowed a separate ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy to take effect Sunday without his signature. However, a judge on Wednesday halted enforcement, at least for now.
Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens blocked an earlier ban last year hours before it was to take effect. Her order on the first ban remains in effect as courts decide whether it complies with the state's constitution.
ANY OTHER NEW COURT RULINGS?
This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a narrow part of that state's abortion ban.
The court ruled that a woman has the right to an abortion if her doctor finds that continuing her pregnancy risks her life, not just when she's in the midst of a life-threatening medical emergency.
ARE THERE OTHER NEW ANTI-ABORTION MEASURES?
The Kansas House on Wednesday passed a bill declaring that when an abortion procedure inadvertently results in a live birth, medical personnel must try to preserve the newborn's life. The legislation now goes to the state Senate, where it's also expected to pass.
At least 18 other states have similar laws on the books. Opponents say it's a circumstance that very rarely happens — but that the law would create additional trauma for women who seek abortions.
A similar measure was on the ballot in Montana last year and voters rejected it.
WHAT STATES ARE PROTECTING ABORTION?
Oregon lawmakers heard testimony this week on a bill that would protect abortion providers and patients from criminal and civil liability in other states and would allow a person to bring a lawsuit against a public body for interfering with their reproductive health rights. The measure also seeks to protect gender-affirming care in the state.
Minnesota lawmakers passed bills to prohibit enforcement in the state of laws, subpoenas, judgements or extradition requests from other states for people who obtain, provide or assist with abortions there. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green was expected to sign a similar measure on Wednesday. As in other states, both governors signed executive orders extending similar protections.
Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press