Hi, everyone! Kate Smith here, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of news.
Thanks for coming back for the second 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.
As of Wednesday July 27, 14 states have banned abortion, some completely and others at early stages in pregnancy. Many of the bans were the result of either a trigger ban, or a resurrected pre-Roe abortion ban.
But this week marked a new milestone for anti-abortion legislation. In Indiana and West Virginia lawmakers convened on Monday, becoming the first states to enter special sessions to consider abortion ban legislation since the court overturned Roe v. Wade last month.
While most state legislatures typically aren’t in session over the summer, politicians have the option of calling special sessions to pass legislation outside of their regular schedule. In addition to West Virginia and Indiana, so far, lawmakers in other states, including South Carolina, Nebraska and Missouri, have either announced or discussed planed to convene their own special sessions to discuss abortion bans and restrictions.
In Indiana, Senate Bill 1 is at the center of discussion. If enacted as written, Senate Bill 1 would entirely outlaw abortion, potentially adding Indiana to the seven states that currently ban the procedure entirely. As introduced, the ban includes exceptions in situations of rape and incest, but even in those cases abortion is only available up until the eighth week of pregnancy for patients sixteen-year-old and older and up until twelve weeks for patients younger than sixteen, and the legislation specifically says that the patients need to provide “the physician with an affidavit, signed under penalties of perjury, attesting to the rape or incest.” (Take a look at page 8.) The bill also includes an exception in the event the fetus has an “irremediable medical condition,” but doesn’t specify exactly what that could mean.
Indiana's total ban on abortion heads to a final passage vote in the Senate on Friday, where it is expected to pass. Next week, the legislature will hold hearings on the ban in the House.
The legislation drew an enormous amount of attention, and hundreds of abortion rights supporters came to Indianapolis early in the week to voice their opposition to the bill. Planned Parenthood’s own Emma Hennessey, a digital state manager, was on the ground in Indiana this week. Here’s what Emma had to say:
“There was a palpable, frantic energy in the room, as if everyone couldn’t fully believe this ban could actually happen. Abortion rights supporters and anti-abortion activists stood next to each other gripping signs, staring at the legislative chamber, looking defiant and resolute. But the abortion rights supporters had another emotion also on their faces: empathy. Even threatened with the possibility of a total abortion ban, these reproductive rights activists didn’t look angry — they looked like a friend listening to you as you told them a difficult anecdote; they looked like they cared. There was way more love in that room than hatred by a landslide.”
Indiana’s proposed abortion ban, as well as all abortion bans that have been enacted so far, includes an exception in the event that an abortion would save the patient’s life, but as we’re seeing across the country, these so-called “life exceptions” aren’t as simple as their proponents make them out to be.
In states with abortion bans in effect, physicians have described chaos while trying to balance the state’s new laws with providing the best possible care to pregnant patients.
This week, I caught up with Dr. Bhavik Kumar. He’s a physician at a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Houston, where he and his colleagues are working under Texas’s total abortion ban.
From Dr. Kumar:
“Abortion care is the only time… where I've heard of folks really being concerned around having to consult an attorney.” Dr. Kumar said in an interview with me last week. “I can't think of any other time when somebody would say: Oh, I need to ask the attorney before I can move forward. It's the last thing that any clinician should be thinking about when it comes to taking care of somebody, especially in an emergency or an urgent situation."
For more of my conversation with Dr. Kumar, check out the video below:
In West Virginia’s special session, lawmakers rapidly advanced a new abortion ban this week, after a judge blocked their attempt to resurrect a ban from 1849. House Bill 302 would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy in virtually all cases, with exceptions only for ectopic pregnancies, fatal fetal anomalies, medical emergencies, and in the event of rape or incest — but to qualify for the exception, patients are required to make a report to a law enforcement officer and abortion is only available in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. For minors, the laws get trickier. Per the legislation, a minor patient seeking abortion under the law’s exceptions would need to give notice to their parents and then wait 48 hours before they’d be able to access an abortion — even if the young person is experiencing a medical emergency or an ectopic pregnancy.
As of Thursday, House Bill 302 was expected to receive a final vote on Friday and is anticipated to pass. If passed, the legislation will head to Governor Jim Justice for final signature.
Abortion rights groups continued their legal fights to block abortion bans from going into effect. On Tuesday, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights announced they were filing suit in Georgia, challenging the state’s six-week abortion ban that went into effect last week. Attorneys fighting the ban argue Georgia’s six-week abortion ban violates the state constitution’s privacy protections.
And in North Dakota, a judge temporarily blocked the state’s abortion ban from going into effect, saying in his order that North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley “prematurely attempted to execute the triggering language” of the state's trigger law that was passed in 2007. The ban was set to go into effect on Thursday, but because of Wednesday’s order, abortion will remain legal in North Dakota for another 30 days.
Next week, we’re expecting another major milestone: The first time abortion will be on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. On Tuesday, Kansans will vote on House Concurrent Resolution 5003. That’s a measure that would change the state’s constitution to eliminate an existing, guaranteed right to abortion. If passed, the amendment would pave the way for the Kansas legislature’s anti-abortion rights Republican super-majority to not only pass an abortion ban, but also override a potential veto from the state’s Democratic Governor, Laura Kelly, who supports abortion rights.
Next week, we’ll give you an update on the results of that ballot measure as well as updates on abortion bans across the country. We’ll also share a conversation with Wendy Davis, the former Texas state representative whose pink sneakers made headlines nearly ten years ago during a 13-hour long filibuster attempting to block abortion restrictions.
See you next week!