Since January, when most state legislatures convened for their first session since Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, there has been a flurry of far-right abortion legislation. Nine states have passed bills narrowing the time period in which women can legally access abortion. Alabama has effectively banned abortion altogether. (The bills have not yet taken effect, and many have already been challenged in court.)
While a handful of states stay in session year-round, most state legislatures have adjourned for the year. That means there probably won’t be much more antiabortion legislation passed in 2019.
I talked to experts and abortion-rights advocates about the developing stories they’re watching closely, now that the deluge of antiabortion legislation is tapering off.
Here’s what they’ll be watching out for:
When it’s likely to happen: Any day.
After a series of recent restrictions on abortion passed in Missouri mandating that abortion clinics comply with certain (often prohibitively expensive) standards, every clinic in the state was forced to close its doors — except for one. Now, the lone surviving abortion clinic in Missouri — a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis — is at risk of closing, too. State officials declined to renew the clinic’s license, claiming that the state needs to investigate “a large number of possible deficiencies.” Missouri Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer granted a temporary stay on May 31, allowing the clinic to remain open while arguments are heard in court. If the court rules against Planned Parenthood, Missouri would become the first state in the country with no abortion clinics.
When it’s likely to happen: This month.
Many of the states that have recently passed antiabortion legislation have already been challenged in court. In Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky and Alabama, lawsuits have been filed by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights; judges in Kentucky and Mississippi have temporarily blocked the bills in those states from taking effect. No cases have been filed yet in Georgia, but that will almost certainly happen soon, said Kwajelyn Jackson, the executive director at the Feminist Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic in Atlanta. Georgia’s case is coming later than the others because its fetal heartbeat bill is not scheduled to go into effect until January — whereas, left unchallenged, Kentucky’s bill, for example, would have taken effect immediately, said Jennifer Dalven, the director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU.
When it’s likely to happen: This summer, or later this year.
As some states rush to implement more restrictions on abortion, others are trying to peel restrictions away. The Massachusetts state legislature is preparing to hear a bill that would allow underage women to receive abortion treatment without consent from their parents, and would also allow late-term abortions to be performed outside of hospitals. Maine recently passed a law to similarly expand abortion access, allowing nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and nurse midwives to provide abortions, dramatically increasing the number of people who are legally able to administer the procedure.
When it’s likely to happen: This summer.
A Louisiana bill signed into law and upheld by the 5th Circuit Court would require abortion providers to secure admitting privileges at local hospitals — a relatively difficult process. There is only one abortion provider in the state who would qualify, according to Dalven. The Supreme Court issued a stay in February, temporarily blocking the law while it decides whether to hear the case. The Court has heard a nearly identical case fairly recently: In June 2016, the court struck down a similar law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, ruling that by requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals, the law put an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion, making it unconstitutional. Since Louisiana’s law has been upheld at the circuit level, the Supreme Court would have to decide to hear the case and strike down the law to prevent it from taking effect, said Dalven.
When it’s likely to happen: This month.
In Texas, abortion is illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy except under certain extenuating circumstances. If the fetus is not viable, and will not survive after birth, for example, the woman can legally access abortion. A bill making its way through the Texas legislature would change that, forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term, even if they know the baby will not survive out of the womb. Senate Bill 1033 has passed the Senate and is pending review in the House.