Though the abortion rights argument has taken something of a political back seat in recent months, the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade still looms over millions of Americans. One state, however, is looking to take the lead on this issue. Delaware is about to fully legalize abortion, and other states need to take action as well before it's too late.
The First State is living up to its nickname by becoming the first to eliminate nearly all abortion restrictions, in case the federal standard is changed as promised by Donald Trump. The bill ensures that pregnancies can be terminated by a physician, and that the viability of a pregnancy is determined by a physicians' judgement. The new, minimalist bill is a feminist's dream — it fully enshrines the right to terminate pregnancies at will, so long as the fetus isn't viable or a doctor determines it is necessary for the health of the mother. Delaware Gov. John Carney has publicly stated that he intends to sign the measure, which should make it to his desk within the next few weeks.
But even though Delaware is doing something about it, and a handful of others are trying, as of right now, the effort is not enough. Unfortunately, this mission to protect abortion rights at the state level isn't working out anywhere else. Typically liberal states like Connecticut, New Mexico, Rhode Island, New York, and Illinois have each started on the path to creating similar laws, but have been blocked along the legislative process. Each state has a Democratic-controlled legislature (except for Connecticut, which is split between the two houses), yet the Republican minorities have just enough control to block reform.
That's really bad news for the millions of women who live in these states and across the country. If legislators are unable to codify abortion rights into their states' laws, these states won't be the safe havens for reproductive rights that they are now. Conservative states are already slashing abortion rights near to nonexistence, and if Roe v. Wade is overturned, those states are likely to be the first to ban the practice entirely. Women in conservative-controlled states will need protection of their right to terminate in progressive states, and that right has to be protected in state law much sooner rather than later.
Abortion rights need to be a legislative priority for progressive states, because the unpredictable nature of this presidential administration means that nothing can be taken for granted. Although bureaucratic realities make overturning Roe v. Wade unlikely, there will be a desperate panic if it happens. States can avoid that by creating proactive legislation and making sure their female citizens know that they are supported in their right to choose.