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An Overview Of State Abortion Laws


This week, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Louisiana from enforcing a restrictive abortion law. The court will likely hear a challenge to the merits of that law this fall. Many states are moving to pass a number of new abortion laws to prepare for the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade, that 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States. We're going to turn now to Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Jules (ph), thanks so much for being with us.

JULIE ROVNER: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Chief Justice Roberts, of course, joined four liberal justices on the Supreme Court to temporarily block that abortion law from going into effect in Louisiana. What impact does that have in the state and other states?

ROVNER: Well, for the moment, that law will not be enforced while the case proceeds its way through the Supreme Court, which is now what we're expecting. It was similar to a law in Texas that was actually struck down by the court in 2016 that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. In 2016, the Supreme Court majority said that was not necessary. And then Louisiana passed this law anyway. It was sort of surprisingly upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. And now the Supreme Court will have it as a possibility to either reverse or seriously undermine Roe v. Wade.

SIMON: Anti-abortion activists, of course, hope that Roe v. Wade will be overturned now that the balance of the Supreme Court may have shifted. A number of Republican-controlled legislatures are passing laws that would go into effect if that happens. What are those laws like?

ROVNER: Well, there are a whole number of different laws. There are what are called trigger laws. Those are laws that say if Roe v. Wade is struck down, then abortion would become illegal. There are other laws that states are passing that they are using to try and get the Supreme Court to either overturn Roe v. Wade or to undermine it. Those include not just the laws like the one in Louisiana, but there are bans on specific types of abortion procedures, particularly what's called the D&E, which is the most common second trimester form of abortion.

There is an Indiana law that bans abortion for sex selection or in the case of fetal deformity. That one is near to getting a decision by the Supreme Court whether they will hear it. So there are a number of different ways that states are looking at trying to sort of make abortion either much more difficult to get or completely illegal.

SIMON: There are Democratic lawmakers in Virginia and New York state that have gotten attention for bills that would loosen abortion restrictions, especially in the third trimester. What else are some Democrats doing at the state level?

ROVNER: Well, mirroring what anti-abortion lawmakers are trying to do in more red states to make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade was struck down, lawmakers in bluer states are trying to pass laws that would ensure that abortion remains legal. Remember; Roe v. Wade just said that states couldn't ban abortion. So if it were struck down, it would be up to each individual state. So we're seeing a number of states who are trying to either rewrite old laws or pass new laws that say if Roe v. Wade were to go away, abortion would remain legal in the state. There are other things that states are doing. In some of the blue states, they're looking at ensuring that abortion is covered by insurance. That is not the case in some states; it is in others. They're looking at making sure that women have easier access to other reproductive health services like birth control to make sure that abortions are not as necessary.

SIMON: The Trump administration is expected to soon announce its plan for funding family planning services. What do we expect from that?

ROVNER: We expect the administration to try and basically evict Planned Parenthood from the federal family planning program. This is a goal that goes back for anti-abortion activists to the 1980s. Planned Parenthood does not use federal funds for abortions. That is not allowed. But they do use their own private funds for abortions, and they also take federal money to provide family planning services. Basically, what these rules would do if they come out as we expect is they would say that if you are performing abortions, you must do it at a separate facility than one where you're using federal funds to provide family planning services.

And also it would ban abortion referrals for women with unintended pregnancy. Currently, those are required if the woman seeks them, that counseling is also required, woman with an unintended pregnancy is to be given all of her options. And if she asks for an abortion referral, she is to be given one. That would basically be reversed under the new rules - at least as we expect them to come out.

SIMON: Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROVNER: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.