A year since Dobbs, these are the many ways states are protecting abortion
Abortion access has declined dramatically nationwide, but many states have further protected abortion by enacting "shield laws," allocating funding, stockpiling medication and repealing old laws.
In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, 14 states have banned most abortions, but even more have moved to protect abortion rights in various ways.
Eleven states have passed so-called "shield laws," which can safeguard providers and patients against prosecution from other states. And at least 15 municipalities and six state governments allocated nearly $208 million to pay for contraception, abortion and support services according to data provided to NPR by the National Institute for Reproductive Health.
Some states have opened new clinics and have become destinations for people seeking an abortion as new research shows just how difficult it has become to get in-person care.
California embraces role as 'sanctuary' state
Following the Dobbs decision, California lawmakers moved quickly to shore up protections for abortions and become a "sanctuary" for people who live in places with new restrictions.
Last year, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new laws to strengthen civil and privacy rights for those who get an abortion and require insurance companies to cover the procedure, along with certain over-the-counter contraceptives.
The state also launched a website where people – whether they live in California or not – can find providers, connect with abortion funds for financial aid, and learn about their rights for receiving reproductive care in the state.
California was one of several states where voters added abortion protections to the state constitution last November.
This year, members of the legislature's Democratic supermajority are looking to build on policies to expand privacy by banning "reverse warrants," which can be used to compel tech companies to reveal the identities of users who have made certain keyword searches or visited a particular location, such as an abortion clinic.
Maryland trains more health care providers
Maryland, like a handful of other solidly Democratic states, rushed to ensure abortion protections since Dobbs.
The state legislature appropriated $3.5 million to train health care professionals in reproductive health in order to expand the number of people to provide abortion services in the state. Those funds were delayed by former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and are currently being allocated under Democratic Gov. Wes Moore's administration.
During the 2023 legislative cycle, lawmakers voted to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. That still needs final approval from Maryland voters who will decide on the amendment in a referendum during the 2024 election.
The state is also trying to hedge further challenges to abortion rights. The Moore administration stockpiled two-and-a-half years' worth of Mifepristone, a drug generally used in combination with another drug to induce abortions, after recent federal cases put the future of the drug's use in jeopardy.
Michigan Democrats, newly in control, repeal 1931 law
In Michigan, the Dobbs decision was a catalyst that helped Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Democratic slate sweep the statewide elections in Nov., 2022 – against an admittedly anemic Republican statewide ticket. Democrats won complete control of the legislature for the first time in nearly four decades. Turnout was spurred by a ballot proposal to add an abortion rights amendment to the Michigan Constitution.
"We will make Michigan a leader, a place where everyone is respected and protected under the law, a place where women make their own decisions," Whitmer said to a crescendo of cheers at the Democrats' election night party. "A place that protects civil rights and workers' rights and where there's a path for everyone."
Democrats used their newfound hegemony in Lansing to formally repeal Michigan's dormant 1931 abortion ban. Earlier last month, Whitmer signed a bill to add reproductive rights to Michigan's civil rights law, which would, among other things, protect women who have had abortions from employment discrimination. That was over the objections of the Catholic Church and some other faith organizations that oppose abortion rights.
Colorado enacts legal protections
Even prior to the end of Roe, Democrats in control of Colorado's government began thinking of how to implement protections for people to get an abortion, and passed a law to cement legal abortion into Colorado law.
Following the Dobbs decision, Colorado's governor, Democrat Jared Polis, issued an executive order in July of 2022 giving legal protection to people who come to Colorado for abortions, or to anyone who helps another person cross state lines to obtain the procedure.
When state lawmakers convened for their annual legislative session this year, codifying the governor's executive order was a top priority. They passed it as part of a package of laws aimed at ensuring access to abortion, including expanding private insurance coverage for abortions and other reproductive care.
Colorado has also set restrictions on how crisis pregnancy centers — which generally seek to convince pregnant women not to abort — can advertise their services, including making claims that they can reverse a medication abortion, a scientifically controversial procedure. Colorado became the first state to effectively outlaw abortion reversal treatment classifying it as "unprofessional conduct." That law is slated to go into effect later this year after state health officials review the science behind it to decide whether it should be considered a "generally accepted standard of practice."
Illinois as a 'midwestern safe haven'
Since the fall of Roe, Illinois has welcomed an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions, becoming what advocates call a "Midwestern safe haven" for reproductive health care.
Democratic lawmakers have focused on passing shield laws, or protections for people coming to Illinois from surrounding states where abortion access is restricted or generally banned, like Indiana and Missouri.
One such measure, which was signed into law earlier this year, applies to health care providers and patients. Another measure passed last month, which is waiting for a signature from Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, would prohibit law enforcement from sharing data from automated license plate readers with other states for the purpose of prosecuting someone seeking an abortion in Illinois.
Other notable legislation includes requiring insurers to cover abortion medication, requiring public colleges to offer emergency contraception at "wellness kiosks" and allowing patients of crisis pregnancy centers to sue if they feel the center had misled them from seeking abortion care.
Oregon protections remain strong but Democrats struggle
Oregon has long had some of the nation's least-restrictive abortion policies. The right to receive an abortion is written into state law. But after keeping their majorities in the 2022 election, Democrats have been looking to go further.
The party introduced a bill that would have ensured children of any age could receive an abortion without parental consent, expanded access to reproductive health care in rural areas, and granted legal protections to abortion providers that treat people from states where the process would be illegal.
But Republicans balked. GOP Senators refused to attend floor sessions for six weeks in order to block the bill. With the legislative session in serious jeopardy, Democrats traded away pieces of their proposal to get Republicans to return. That means parental consent is still necessary for children under 15, unless two health care providers determine it would be harmful. And money for expanded services in rural parts of the state was cut.
Still, Oregon is likely to protect providers who serve patients from anti-abortion states, a step Democrats and their allies have cheered. And the state continues to be extremely protective of the right to terminate a pregnancy.
Minnesota's largest abortion shift in generations
After winning the state's House, Senate and governor's office, Minnesota Democrats vowed the day after the 2022 election to expand abortion access and eliminate restrictions that had been on the books for decades.
Within weeks, they passed a law guaranteeing the right to reproductive health care, including abortion. Then lawmakers advanced a plan to create new legal protections for patients that travel to the state for abortions and for providers in Minnesota.
Lastly, on the final day of the legislative session, Democrats wiped out a series of restrictions on abortion. They chipped away at reporting requirements for abortion procedures, ended a 24-hour waiting period and mandate that both parents sign off on a minor's abortion, increased funding available for abortions and ended a program that funded nonprofits that advocate against abortions.
Taken together, the changes are the largest shift in abortion law the state has seen in generations. Democrats at the Capitol say they'll aim to send a constitutional amendment to voters next year guaranteeing the right to abortion.
Connecticut expands who can provide abortions
Before the Dobbs decision, but after the draft abortion opinion was leaked out of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022, Connecticut passed the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act. The law protects healthcare providers and patients from so-called "bounty hunter" lawsuits that seek to prosecute them for traveling out of state for an abortion. The law also allows nurse-midwives, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants to perform abortions — expanding the number of clinicians and facilities available to provide abortions.
This legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control and emergency contraception. Earlier this week, state Attorney General William Tong appointed two special councils to ensure reproductive healthcare is protected in Connecticut.
Nicole Nixon is a politics reporter at CapRadio, Scott Maucione is WYPR's health reporter, Rick Pluta is Michigan Public Radio's managing editor and state Capitol bureau chief, Mawa Iqbal is a statehouse reporter at WBEZ, Bente Birkeland is Colorado Public Radio's public affairs reporter, Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for OPB, Dana Ferguson is Minnesota Public Radio's politics reporter, Molly Ingram is a reporter at WSHU.
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