Hi, everyone! Kate Smith here, senior director of news with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Thanks for coming back for the third installment of “Planned Parenthood Presents: The State of Abortion.” This week, we’re continuing to document the impact of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade with on-the-ground reports of the latest laws and legal fights that we’re seeing in the states. We’re here to keep you informed so you can decide for yourself.
This week and next are shaping up to become some of the most consequential and potentially devastating for abortion access since the initial ones following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Right now, multiple states are in special session advancing new abortion bans. And new movement in legal battles across the country will potentially allow lawmakers to enforce bans that were previously blocked.
But before we get there, a major milestone and the biggest win yet for abortion rights supporters since the fall of Roe: The results of Kansas’s primary election.
On Tuesday, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to their state constitution that would have given state lawmakers a pathway to ban abortion. The ballot measure marked the first time that voters have had a chance to directly weigh in on abortion rights.
According to the New York Times, more than 900,000 Kansans voted on Tuesday, blowing past predictions that had already projected high turnout rates. To put those numbers in context, more people voted in Tuesday’s election than they did in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 primaries. In fact, almost as many voted in this week’s election than they did in the 2018 general election.
Mason Hickman, a digital state manager at Planned Parenthood Action Fund, was on the ground in Kansas this week, canvassing in Kansas City and its surrounding suburbs. From Hickman:
“Down to the last minute, we worked with community organizers who were knocking on doors to ensure Kansans had made it out to vote. One of the last doors we knocked was that of a woman in her nineties, who told us she had waited patiently for her daughter to get off work to drive her to the polls.
'I have granddaughters,' she said, 'and [abortion] is always a personal choice.'
She told us she had lived through the rise and fall of Roe v. Wade, and here she was today — fully aware of what was at stake if this dangerous measure passed."
Because of Tuesday’s vote, abortion will remain legal and available in Kansas, a state that’s become a critical access point for patients fleeing abortion bans in Texas, Oklahoma, and other neighboring states.
But the number of states with abortion bans in place is growing. As of Wednesday evening, 15 states had bans in effect.
New this week, Kentucky joins that list. On Monday evening, a state court of appeals in Kentucky allowed an outright ban to go into effect immediately. That decision lifted a lower court’s injunction from last month which put the ban on hold as the court determined whether the ban violates the state constitution.
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU appealed Monday’s decision to the state Supreme Court, asking it to once again block the ban as the case makes its way through the judicial process.
And an even more complicated situation played out in Michigan where abortion is legal and available now, but multiple challenges to a ban from 1931 are winding their way through the courts.
Earlier this year, a lower court had blocked that ban, but on Monday an appellate court cast doubt on that injunction, seeming to suggest that county prosecutors could enforce the ban, despite it being blocked. Hours later, a lower court in a separate case that also centers on that 1931 ban jumped in, issuing a temporary restraining order blocking prosecutors from going after abortion providers.
On Wednesday, that same lower court extended the order until at least August 17.
On Wednesday, the Idaho State Supreme Court held oral arguments over a series of bans, one of which would entirely outlaw abortion and, if allowed to be enforced, would take effect later this month.
And earlier this week, Idaho was the target of the Biden administration’s first legal fight to safeguard access to abortion since the fall of Roe. On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sued the state over its proposed total ban on abortion, arguing it violates federal protections that make clear that doctors may provide abortions necessary to save a patient’s life in an emergency situation.
Lawmakers in special sessions also continued to advance abortion bans.
After passing in the state Senate last week, Indiana’s proposed total abortion ban, Senate Bill 1, went to the House on Tuesday. (For more on Senate Bill 1, click here to read last week’s recap). After hours of testimony against the legislation, lawmakers advanced the bill out of committee anyway.
As of Thursday, Senate Bill 1 was expected to receive a final, full House vote on Friday, where it is expected to pass. If passed, the legislation will head back to the Senate for a final vote before making its way to the Governor’s desk for final approval.
In West Virginia, the state’s proposed total ban on abortion has stalled after hundreds of abortion rights supporters came to the state capitol to protest the bill and share their testimonies with lawmakers. The delay comes after the legislation was rapidly introduced and pushed through the chambers last week.
One of the abortion rights supporters who came out to protest the legislation was Emmy Wallace, a digital media specialist at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. From Wallace:
“With less than 48 hours notice, hundreds of Mountaineers made their way to the West Virginia Capitol to make their voices heard in both a public hearing and rally in the halls of the legislature. Many of those people stayed at the Capitol for hours while lawmakers debated the bill on both Wednesday, July 27, and Friday, July 29. When we were thrown out of the Senate gallery during their debate, we used signs, soda bottles, and pizza boxes to make sure senators knew that we would not be silenced. Because of our people’s power, we were able to delay the bill from passing. This fight is not over, and we plan to come back to the Capitol when lawmakers attempt to ban abortion again in the coming weeks. We will never back down."
This week I also spoke to Wendy Davis. You probably know her from her headline-making 13-hour filibuster against abortion restrictions in Texas nearly ten years ago. Today, Davis is the founder of Deeds Not Words, a nonprofit that helps young leaders find their voices and prepare them for public testimonies, just like the ones we saw in Indiana and West Virginia.
Davis and I spoke about other ways to get involved in local government, like making a trip to your representative’s field offices and even sending an email or leaving a voicemail, and why that’s so important. From Davis:
“It helps them to understand the accountability that they're going to be held to, that their constituents are watching them. And that even if they're going to vote in a way that's different than the majority of people who communicated with them, they've been put on notice.”
Davis shared that during her filibuster, more than 16,000 people reached out to her office to voice their opposition to the legislation she was trying to block.
“It might not have mattered for the Republican lawmakers who were dead set on what it was that they were going to do that day,” Davis said. “But it raised awareness of people in the state. It raised awareness of people around the country. And I think it's such an important reminder of why our personal stories matter so much.”