Both sides planning for new state-by-state abortion fight in US

5 December 2021, 13:24

Anti-abortion protesters in front of the US Supreme Court earlier this month
Abortion Groups Whats Next. Picture: PA

Up to 26 states would institute some sort of abortion-access restrictions within a year, if permitted by the Supreme Court, according to researchers.

A resurgent anti-abortion movement in the US is looking to press its advantage in state-by-state battles as the Supreme Court weighs the future of the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision.

Both anti-abortion campaigners and abortion rights supporters seem to be operating on the assumption that a court reshaped by former president Donald Trump will either overturn or seriously weaken Roe.

“We have a storm to weather,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organisation that supports abortion rights.

“We have to weather the storm so that in the future – five, 10, 15 years from now – we’re talking about how we managed to repeal all these abortion bans.”

A woman holds a poster that reads 'Abortion is Healthcare' during a demonstration in front of the US Supreme Court
Legislatures in many Republican-led states are poised for action depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The institute estimates that as many as 26 states would institute some sort of abortion-access restrictions within a year, if permitted by the court.

At least 12 states have “trigger bans” on the books, with restrictions that would kick in automatically if the justices overturn or weaken federal protections on abortion access.

The current case before the court, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, concerns a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Roe v Wade, which was reaffirmed in a subsequent 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v Casey, allows states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of foetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks.

The fate of the Mississippi case will not be known for months, but based on opening arguments, Roe appears to be in peril.

All six of the court’s conservative justices, including Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, have indicated they would uphold the Mississippi law.

Abortion rights advocates hold cardboard cutouts of the Supreme Court Justices
Abortion rights advocates hold cardboard cutouts of Supreme Court Justices (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

“There’s no doubt that what we heard from the Supreme Court was incredibly disturbing,” said Ianthe Metzger, director of state media campaigns for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, one of the most prominent advocates of abortion access rights.

“It wasn’t really surprising but it was alarming.”

Susan Arnall, director of outreach for the anti-abortion Right to Life League, said she was particularly encouraged by Justice Samuel Alito’s emphasis on the concept of “viability” for the foetus as a guiding principle on when to ban the termination of a pregnancy.

She predicts that modern advancements in medicine will continue to shrink the window in which a foetus is not viable, opening the door to a host of medically intricate state-level debates.

“Viability is something that is subject to medical science,” Ms Arnall said. “It’s going to get intensely legal and intensely medical. It’s going to be a battle of lawyers and doctors.”

While Washington is the primary current battleground, many leaders of the conservative movement are treating the judicial battle as won and Roe’s demise as an inevitability. The next battleground will be a shifting cat-and-mouse fight in state legislatures and in next year’s elections across the country.

The Supreme Court in Washington
The Supreme Court in Washington (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

“People are realising that seven months from now, we’ll probably be dealing with this on a state level,” Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, said.

“This will become much more prominent in state electoral races, especially governor’s races.”

Legislatures in many Republican-led states are poised for action depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling.

On Wednesday, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals vacated previous rulings that had blocked a Tennessee law that included banning abortions once a foetal heartbeat is detected – about six weeks – and ordered a rehearing by the full court.

“The battle has been happening in the statehouses for decades and it’s going to intensify,” Ms Nash said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected around June, almost guaranteeing that the issue will dominate next autumn’s congressional elections as well as state-level races from coast to coast.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

The has been UK warned to bolster defences against cyber attacks from Russia

US paratroops on standby and UK brace for Russian cyber attacks as Ukraine tensions rise

Joe Biden

Joe Biden warns Ukraine of ‘distinct possibility’ of Russian military action

Hundreds of medical experts say the UK must ensure poorer countries are vaccinated to help keep up effectiveness of jabs

UK must vaccinate poorer countries to keep effectiveness of Covid jabs, experts warn


Biden: Ready for ‘long overdue’ pick of black female justice

Capsized Boat-Florida

Coast Guard finds four more migrant bodies off Florida coast

Stephen Breyer

Justice Stephen Breyer confirms retirement from US Supreme Court

United Nations Holocaust

World remembers Holocaust as antisemitism rises amid pandemic

Ethan Crumbley

Michigan school shooting suspect to pursue insanity defence

Migration Poland Wall

Poland starts building metal wall to stop migrants crossing border from Belarus

Michael Avenatti

Porn star Stormy Daniels tells jury that lawyer Avenatti ‘stole from me’

Ukraine Russia

Little ground for optimism after US response on Ukraine, warns Moscow

North Korean missile

North Korea fires two suspected missiles in sixth launch this year

The UK is mulling over sending more troops eastwards as the threat of a Russian invasion looms

Ukraine: UK in 'advanced' talks over sending hundreds of troops as Russian invasion threat looms

Supporters of the six plaintiffs (Mari Yamaguchi/AP)

Cancer lawsuit launched over Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster

Snow covers the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem Old city (Mahmoud Ilean/AP)

Jerusalem blanketed in white after rare snowfall

Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington (Erin Schaff/AP)

What are the next stages in the process to name new Supreme Court justice?