A leaked draft opinion suggests the US Supreme Court is poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.
While the states have been expecting such a decision for years, the draft report fails in one case Mississippi is the strongest evidence yet that access to abortion in the US depends on where you live. The draft was confirmed authentic by the Chief Justice John Roberts, but it’s important to note that it’s not final yet. It could change before it is handed down by the court of nine.
Meanwhile, polls show that a majority of the public prefers abortions, which are legal in most or all cases.
Here are some background details — and questions you might want to ask — to use in your own reporting of abortion in your state.
STATE LAW OVERVIEW
A total of 22 states already have laws on the books that would ban abortion outright or very early in a pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that’s pro-abortion rights but rights in general has the latest legal data.
The laws fall into three basic categories: Unenforced abortion bans were enacted before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973; bans passed but blocked in court under Roe; and so-called trigger bans, designed to take effect if Roe is knocked over.
At least eight states passed abortion bans this year: Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some of these laws do not provide exceptions for rape or incest.
At least two states, Michigan and Wisconsin, only have state laws prohibiting abortion that were passed before Roe and could go into effect if the decision is overturned. Michigan’s governor is suing to have that state’s ban reversed.
Several states have overlapping laws. Here is an overview of abortion bans from the Guttmacher Institute: https://bityl.co/C3sp.
Sixteen states have incorporated abortion access protections into state law, although they take slightly different forms. An overview of these laws can be found here: https://bityl.co/C3sw
At least eight states took action this year to strengthen existing protections or expand access to abortion: California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut.
— Be careful when describing positions on this topic: The AP Stylebook recommends using the anti-abortion or abortion-rights modifiers. Don’t use pro-life, pro-choice, or pro-abortion unless they’re in quotation marks or proper nouns. Avoid abortion, meaning a person who performs clandestine abortions.
Consult with reproductive rights groups, health care workers, scholars, anti-abortion advocacy groups and legislative leaders who will determine what bills to limit or expand access to abortion will advance in your state legislature.
— Talk to women who have had abortions or who will be most directly affected by severe restrictions or increased access to abortion to get a feel for the real impact of the laws in your state.
— In states with abortion bans that could go into effect after the Supreme Court ruling, ask if there are exceptions for rape or incest and what resources are available for women who would no longer have access to abortion services.
— In states that want to maintain access to abortion, ask how access is codified and whether it might be subject to challenges in the future.
— In states where future access is open, ask lawmakers on both sides what laws they plan to introduce and whether legal action is likely.
— State and local health departments can provide data on the number of abortions performed over the years and how they have trended. It’s also worth asking how the number of abortion clinics in the state has changed over the years.
– If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, minority women will be disproportionately affected by tightened restrictions, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press in February. See the AP story here: https://apnews.com/article/abortion-us-supreme-court-business-health-race-and-ethnicity-3fff455cce7ef0d8694f5371f805ea18 State and local health officials should have additional statistics.
To help your readers better understand the abortion struggle across the country, the following paragraphs can be used:
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the country will be divided into states that allow the procedure and those that ban or severely restrict it.
Proponents of anti-abortion laws want to reduce the number of women applying for the procedure and discourage them from going to other states. At least 276,000 women terminated their pregnancies outside of their home state between 2012 and 2017, according to a 2019 Associated Press analysis of data from state reports and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is particularly true in the Midwest, South, and Mountain West areas, where there has been an increase in women terminating out of state pregnancies due to a lack of nearby clinics or a desire to cross state to travel with less restrictive abortion laws.
When Texas enacted a ban banning the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, the Oklahoma State Department of Health began reporting a dramatic increase in women crossing the border to have an abortion. Before the Texas ban went into effect last year, about 40 Texas women had abortions in Oklahoma each month. That number rose to 222 Texas women in September and 243 in October, the agency reported.
About 630,000 abortions were reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, the latest available data, although information from some states is missing.
More than half of abortions in the US are now performed with pills instead of surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The trend has intensified during the pandemic with the help of telemedicine. In 2020, pills accounted for 54% of all abortions in the US, up from about 44% in 2019.
Americans have nuanced attitudes to this issue. In an AP-NORC poll conducted last June, 61% said abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy should be legal in most or all circumstances. However, 65% said abortion should normally be illegal in the second trimester, and 80% said it was in the third trimester. Many Americans said the procedure should be allowed, at least in some circumstances, even during the second or third trimester.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/john-roberts-ap-roe-editors-oklahoma-b2071039.html LOCATE IT: How abortion decisions might affect states