New Abortion Legislation in the US

Mehr Kaur, Staff Writer

In March, the governor of Idaho, Governor Brad Little, signed a new strict abortion law despite his concerns regarding the bill’s constitutionality. The new bill bans abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, despite that most women are unaware of the fact that they are pregnant by then. It also allows for family members to sue the healthcare professional or anyone they accuse of helping provide the abortion. If the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, the offender is not eligible to sue. Unlike the strict abortion law passed in Texas in 2021, the Idaho bill makes exceptions for pregnancies by rape or incest. However, the assault must be reported to law enforcement in order for this exception to be in place. Though the list of biological relatives has been narrowed down, the law includes no exclusion of the rapist’s family members.
In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt vowed to make abortions illegal in the state and promised to sign every pro-life bill that hit his desk. He kept his word after signing a bill that makes performing an abortion a felony. The punishment is up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The bill does make an exception if the patient’s life is in danger, but unlike the Idaho bill, it makes no exception for rape or incest. The bill has not taken effect yet. Instead, it is waiting on a Supreme Court decision regarding Mississippi’s abortion bill, which will either overturn or enforce Roe v. Wade, the ruling that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion. The decision of this court case will decide the constitutionality of many strict abortion laws passed within the United States, especially for the states who have passed near-total abortion laws.
In Mississippi, the legislature passed a bill that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This bill is currently pending before the Supreme Court along with the Texas abortion ban after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Kentucky followed in Mississippi’s footsteps and passed a similar strict abortion law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law also places extensive restrictions on abortions through medication, banning receipt of this medication througuh mail. It requires abortion providers to ask for a detailed report from patients regarding the abortion and adds more limitations for women under 18 who seek an abortion. Unlike the Oklahoma bill, which is waiting for a Supreme Court Ruling, the Kentucky bill has already been put into effect. Though abortions are still technically legal within the states, the new bill severely limits abortion access.
When asked about her knowledge of the new abortion legislation in the US, Wheeler student Emily Cameron (11) said, “I don’t know about specific states, but I know some states are saying the rapist’s family can sue the woman for $20k, and some states are banning at 6 weeks.” Wheeler student Alleyna Brown (11) also added, “Several states are implementing laws that ban abortion or find a way to punish women for abortion. Idaho added a new ban after six weeks in March and now allows family members to sue healthcare providers for allowing abortions.”
These stricter abortion laws took a turn when Texas prosecutors placed murder charges on a Texas woman for a “self-induced abortion,” which they later dropped after admitting that she had not committed a crime. The Texas abortion bill bans abortions after 6 weeks of pregancy, but does not impose penalties on those who had abortions within the state legally and exempts patients from murder charges for having abortions. The constitutionality of Texas’s Heartbeat Act and Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban will be decided in a Supreme Court case this summer.
Despite the strict laws regarding abortions in some US states, Maryland is one of the few to expand access to abortions. With the Abortion Care Access Act, Maryland is now the 15th state within the US to allow healthcare professionals other than doctors to perform abortions. Maryland’s governor Larry Hogan claimed that the bill would only set standards for women back and endanger their safety. He vetoed the bill, but it was still passed due to substantial majorities voting for the bill in the state legislature. The professionals that are now allowed to carry out abortions include midwives, senior nurses, and doctor’s assistants. It also allocates 3.5 million dollars a year to be set aside for abortion care training. Furthermore, the new bill mandates that most insurance companies cover the full cost of an abortion to the patient. This new law comes into effect starting July 1st, 2022.