In states across the US legislation from Republican lawmakers seeking to undermine abortion rights is on the move. For anti-abortion activists, the goal has long been to challenge the supreme court decision that gave pregnant people the right to abortion 48 years ago: the landmark Roe versus Wade.
Each spring, especially in the last decade, Republicans have introduced restrictive abortion laws tailored to challenge that supreme court precedent by creating test cases. In 1973, Roe versus Wade provided women with a right to abortion up to the point the fetus can survive outside the womb, generally understood to be 24 weeks.
Abortion restrictions investigate the outer limits of that right, by creating laws that provoke reproductive rights advocates to sue, and for courts to consider their legitimacy.
“The more ambitious a restriction the court upholds, that will greenlight even more restrictions in the states,” said Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor whose recent book, Abortion in America: A Legal History, tracked the history of the nation’s most important abortion cases.
“What we’ve been seeing is not what anti-abortion lawmakers want, but it’s been tailored to what they think the supreme court wants,” said Ziegler.
This effort is not meant to reflect the will of the majority of Americans, 77% of whom believe the supreme court should uphold Roe v Wade. The effort is meant to please a motivated, religious voter base, who have helped power Republican victories since the Reagan era. Trump played for the same “social conservatives” when vowing to appoint supreme court justices who would overturn Roe. But since Trump rose to power, exactly how to do that has become a vexing question for the Republican party.
Bills that ban abortion, demand doctors perform the impossible and “reimplant” ectopic pregnancies, punish women and doctors under murder statutes and whose authors believe the fundamental legal principle of precedent should not apply to their cases have all shown up in state legislatures in the last couple years.
Bans in recent sessions have been “extremely aggressive”, said Hillary Schneller, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, and who is now fighting a Mississippi law that could ban abortion at 15 weeks. The state has appealed to the supreme court.
Recent bans have been, “saying the quiet part out loud – that they’re not just restriction abortion, they want to end access to abortion entirely”, said Schneller.
Read more of Jessica Glenza’s report here: Republicans employ new ‘extremely aggressive’ tactics to ban abortion