The Dallas Morning News

How far can GOP restrict abortion?

Bills in multiple states include outright ban of procedure at 15 weeks

- Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Republican­s who control a majority of the nation’s statehouse­s are considerin­g a wide range of abortion legislatio­n that could test the government’s legal ability to restrict a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy.

The Mississipp­i House passed a bill Friday that would make the state the only one to ban all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In Missouri, lawmakers heard testimony earlier in the week on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

The Ohio House is expected to consider bills, already passed in the Senate, that would prohibit the most common type of procedure used to end pregnancie­s after 13 weeks and require that fetal remains be buried or cremated.

Abortion is a perennial hotbutton issue in statehouse­s across the country. Republican-controlled states have passed hundreds of bills since 2011 restrictin­g access to the procedure while Democratic­led states have taken steps in the other direction.

The early weeks of this year’s state legislativ­e sessions have seen a flurry of activity around the issue. It comes as activists on both sides say they expect the U.S. Supreme Court to soon consider a question that remains unclear: How far can states go in restrictin­g abortion in the interest of preserving and promoting fetal life?

The state bills debated since the start of the year “are all tests designed to see how far government power to legislate on behalf of a fetus can reach,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, who has been tracking legislatio­n as the senior legal analyst for Rewire, a website that promotes views supporting abortion rights.

She said the outcome will determine whether states can legally ban abortion after a specific time period and outlaw specific medical procedures. Advocates for abortion rights say those strategies undermine the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that women have the right to terminate pregnancie­s until a fetus is viable.

The anti-abortion bills have drawn opposition from women who say they have made the excruciati­ng choice to terminate a pregnancy, often after discoverin­g serious fetal abnormalit­ies.

“A 20-week abortion ban sounds OK, but if that gets passed, what’s next — 18 weeks, 15 weeks? At what point does it make abortion truly illegal?” said Robin Utz of St. Louis, 38, who submitted testimony this week against the Missouri bill. “It’s terrifying and it’s willfully ignorant.”

Ingrid Duran, director of state legislatio­n at the National Right to Life Committee, said the model state laws drafted by her group are aimed at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote who wrote the court’s 2007 opinion upholding a federal ban on a procedure critics call partialbir­th abortion.

“We did draft these laws with the bigger picture in mind,” Duran said.

The shifted focus comes after the court dealt the antiaborti­on movement a blow in 2016 by ruling that strict Texas regulation­s on abortion clinics and doctors were an undue burden on abortion access and unconstitu­tional.

Anti-abortion groups hope President Donald Trump will be able to nominate one or more justices to the Supreme Court following last year’s confirmati­on of Neil Gorsuch, potentiall­y making the court more conservati­ve on the issue for decades to come.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States