USA – USA: A flood of unconstitutional, state-level, anti-abortion bills

According to a recent report by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, state-level legislation limiting abortion in 2021 has skyrocketed in comparison to a similar time frame in 2019. Compared to bills introduced from January through mid-March 2019, medical abortion restrictions and bans have tripled to 33, anti-abortion constitutional amendments have more than tripled to 14, and states have enacted 12 abortion restrictions this year, compared to just one by this point in 2019.

Overall, state legislatures have introduced 516 abortion restrictions, compared to 304 by mid-March 2019. Many of the bills have already faced swift legal challenges, however, preventing them from going into effect on schedule or at all. This should not be surprising, since most if not all of them are probably unconstitutional under existing US law and the Supreme Court 1973 judgment in Roe v. Wade. Their proponents have reportedly said that’s all part of the plan – to push legally dubious abortion legislation up to the Supreme Court, in hopes it will overturn Roe v. Wade. However, while a majority of the justices may be anti-abortion, they will be forced to pass judgments that do not make an ass of the law, whatever their personal views.

The surge in bills can in part be attributed to anti-choice lawmakers gaining seats in conservative state legislatures last November, Planned Parenthood said in its report. But, as NARAL Pro-Choice America says, these bills are out of step with mainstream values and the views of 7 in 10 Americans who support reproductive freedom. Unfortunately, most of the 7 in 10 don’t live in the 29 states where most of the trouble is happening.

Within the last few years, six states – Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, and North Dakota –  have passed so-called “heartbeat bills,” a cuddly anti-abortion term that’s become shorthand for a ban on abortions from six weeks into a pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists seem to love “heartbeat” messaging – the American Civil Liberties Union found that one such group used the term eight times in 300 words.

FACT CHECK!! At six weeks, embryos do not yet have hearts, sorry. What is detectable around six weeks is “cardiac activity.” Ob-Gyn Robyn Schickler, with Physicians for Reproductive Health, explains that at that early stage of pregnancy, what can be detected (on ultrasound) is communication between a group of cells that will eventually form a heart. “These are cells that are programmed with electrical activity, which will eventually send a signal [from the brain] telling the heart to contract, once there is a heart.” That signal requires a brain too, another body part that embryos don’t yet have either.

SOURCES: Huffington Post, by Lydia O’Connor, 26 March 2021 ; The Cut, by Katie Heaney, May 2019 ; CARTOON, by Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune/ Political, in: USA Today, 6 May 2019