U.S. Supreme Court ruling sparks rush for new abortion restrictions
Just minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt proclaimed that his state would be the first to ban abortion after Friday’s landmark ruling.
In fact, such bans automatically took effect in several states after the ruling, thanks to laws previously passed by their state legislatures that were to go into effect if Roe was ever overthrown.
Doctors, activists and politicians on both sides of the abortion debate in the United States have been planning this moment for years. In 13 states, lawmakers passed so-called “trigger bans,” laws banning abortion if Roe were ever to be overturned. Thirteen more are expected to adopt their own bans in the coming weeks.
Many abortion providers in states where the law was set to change had already stopped seeing patients in recent days or had begun planning to cross state lines. In other places where they expect the law to change within weeks, providers must rush to put contingency plans in place for patients who have lined up in recent weeks to receive a treatment.
“We saw our last patient in Missouri last week,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis area, hours after the Supreme Court ruling.
“I have been fielding calls from co-workers across the state hoping to register their patients for Illinois schedules in the coming days,” she added. “And that’s just in the moments after the decision.”
In three states – Louisiana, Kentucky and South Dakota – trigger bans were designed to be put into place automatically without any further intervention by state authorities. Three others — Arkansas, Wyoming and Mississippi — require final approval from a governor or attorney general for their bans to be enforceable.
Even before the Arkansas Attorney General gave the go-ahead on Friday afternoon, the state’s family planning group announced it would no longer be offering abortions.
The impact was felt quickly in Texas, which had a trigger law in place to ban abortion after Roe’s cancellation. Many clinics across the state immediately suspended abortion services to avoid possible lawsuits. The Houston Women’s Clinic in downtown Houston, one of the city’s largest abortion providers, was closed on Friday and had a sign hung outside its facility stating that it “n is no longer able to provide abortion care”.
Other states, like North Dakota, have a 30-day grace period for their laws to take effect, giving doctors and patients time to adjust.
The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, has been planning for some time to travel 15 minutes across the border to Minnesota. But Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic’s director, said she wasn’t sure if she would be able to open her new site soon enough to avoid a disruption in services.
“We are so grateful and grateful that Minnesota is five minutes away, and it will take less than 15 minutes to get to our new clinic,” she said. “But it’s not just about turning on the lights – a huge amount of work will be needed to make it available and allow us to see patients.”
For now, the clinic continues to schedule patients for their appointments, not knowing exactly when the clock will start ticking on the 30-day countdown. Kromenaker said she scheduled an abortion just minutes after the decision for a patient who seemed unaware that the decision had taken place.
It’s not just Minnesota bracing for an influx of abortion patients from states where it is currently or about to be banned. Suppliers in and around Illinois, which borders both Missouri and Kentucky, say they expect demand to increase in the coming weeks.
“We anticipate more than 14,000 additional patients in the Midwest and South will turn to this care [in Illinois]said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Planned Parenthood in St Louis.
“Since Texas banned abortion in September, our health center in Fairview Heights, [Illinois]has already seen an increase of more than 100% in the number of patients we care for.
Abortion advocates have for years managed funds in states with strict restrictions on the procedure to help pay patients to receive treatment. But many of these funds say demand has been so high in recent weeks they struggled to be continued.
One such group, Fund Texas Choice, said where it used to pay for a friend or family member to travel with abortion patients, it can now only do so for those under 18. .
“These bans will go into effect whether it takes hours or days,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for abortion rights. “There is a question as to when they will be enforced, although many providers have already stopped accepting appointments.”
Even in some states where the way forward is still uncertain, some providers were quickly adjusting to the new legal landscape Friday morning.
Alabama does not have a trigger law in place, but in 2019 Kay Ivey, the Republican Governor, attempted to enact a sweeping bill that would have banned nearly all abortions. That effort was blocked by a federal judge.
Many abortion advocates and providers in the state expect a similar bill to pass quickly. Robin Marty, director of operations for the West Alabama Women’s Center, said her center stopped offering abortions the minute the decision was made.
“Even if they are on the patient’s bed, all the records they come and grab afterward, they can check and see if we performed an illegal abortion,” she told the local news site. al.com.
Additional reporting by Justin Jacobs in Houston