A Timeline Of Anti-Abortion Laws Passed In 2019 Shows How Quickly Lawmakers Are Moving
This year is far from over but people have already seen a spate of restrictive abortion bills recently introduced across America. In fact, a timeline of anti-abortion laws passed in 2019 shows how the momentum for restricting — and in one case, essentially outlawing — abortion is remarkably strong in multiple states at the moment.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Guttmacher Institute, a research center on reproductive health care, reported that 41 states in the country have collectively introduced more 250 anti-abortion measures since 2019 began. A conservative majority on the Supreme Court seems to have emboldened anti-abortion advocates nationwide into pushing for bills that could eventually challenge Roe v. Wade, as NBC News reported. The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision declared that state bans on abortion access for people were unconstitutional.
Elizabeth Nash, who is a state policy analyst for Guttmacher Institute told The New York Times, "The appointment of Kavanaugh focused legislators across the country on abortion. It focused conservative legislators to pass abortion restrictions that they hope will be challenged and end up before the court, so the court can undermine or overturn abortion rights."
The timeline below offers a glimpse at just when various states passed anti-abortion laws and how pro-choice advocates have fought or plan to fight them in court.
1. March 15: Arkansas' "Cherish Act"
In March, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed HB 1439 into law, which prohibits getting an abortion after 18 weeks into a pregnancy. The law states exceptions for rape and incest survivors as well as potentially fatal medical emergencies. It law could take effect in May, but the ACLU has pledged to challenge it in court, which could delay official enactment.
2. March 15: Kentucky's 6-Week Abortion Ban
In March, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a six-week abortion bill, SB 9, into law. The measure was supposed to take effect immediately. However, after ACLU filed a lawsuit against it on behalf of Kentucky's only abortion clinic, EMW Women's Surgical Center, Judge David J. Hale temporarily paused the law's enactment for two weeks, New York Times reported. The current status of the law is blocked, per Rewire News.
3. March 21: Mississippi's 6-Week Abortion Ban
In March, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a so-called "heartbeat" abortion bill into law, this time known as SB 2116. Physicians found guilty of violating the law could have their Mississippi medical license revoked.
Such a law can effectively prohibit abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Medical experts have long debunked so-called "heartbeat" bills, saying that "heartbeat" is an incorrect term to use for fetal development at that stage.
The law could take effect on July 1, but the Center for Reproductive Rights has already filed a lawsuit against SB 2116, and is hoping to delay its enactment, USA Today reported.
4. March 25: Utah's 18-Week Abortion Ban
In March, Utah's Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 136 into law, which bans abortions in the state after 18 weeks of pregnancy, The Deseret News reported.
HB 136 states survivors of sexual assault and incest are exceptions. The measure allows abortions in the case of a lethal danger to the pregnant woman or a fetal abnormality. If someone is found guilty of violating the law, they could face up to 15 years in jail along with a $10,000 fine.
The law, which would have gone into effect on May 14, ended up facing a legal battle from The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood. In April, the Utah Attorney General’s office announced it delayed the enforcement of HB 136 until litigation is completed.
5. April 11: Ohio's 6-Week Abortion Ban
In April, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a six-week abortion bill known as SB 23 into law. The measure bans abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected, similar to the versions passed in Mississippi and Kentucky.
The law takes particular aim at medical practitioners who conduct abortions and states that they could face time in prison and a $20,000 fine if they violate SB 23. On Wednesday, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against SB 23, arguing for a preliminary injunction that would delay the measure from going into effect on July 10.
6. May 7: Georgia's "LIFE Act"
In May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 481 into law, and it's set to take effect in January 2020. The law prohibits abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and holds people who seek abortions — or even some who miscarry, as Business Insider noted — criminally responsible for their actions.
Given its severe restrictions on access to abortion, the ACLU has pledged legal action against the law.
7. May 15: Alabama's "Human Life Protection Act"
On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the nation's most extreme ban on abortion into law. The strictest abortion ban, HB 314, outlaws abortion in every case unless it is proven that there is a potentially lethal fetal abnormality or that the mother's life is at risk. Furthermore, its sponsor, GOP Rep. Terri Collins, said that HB 314's ultimate goal is to challenge Roe v. Wade. This much was reiterated by Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth last week.
The law does not include exceptions for rape or incest survivors. It classifies performing an abortion as Class A felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. The law won't take effect for another six months at the earliest, according to CNN.
The ACLU's Alabama chapter has already announced that it will challenge HB 314 in court with a temporary injunction, AL.com reported. If successful, it would delay the law's enactment.
Although 2019 has been an unprecedented year for the passage of anti-abortion legislation, advocates sound prepared to defend reproductive rights. Most recently, before Alabama's governor signed the near-total abortion ban into law, the ACLU delivered a warning. “We will not stand by while politicians endanger the lives of women and doctors for political gain,” ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Senior Staff Attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said in a statement. “Know this, Governor Ivey: If you sign this dangerous bill into law, we will see you in Court." And if 2019 has proven anything, it's that these anti-abortion laws, despite being passed, still face major obstacles.