DemDaily: One Year Later: After the Fall of Roe

June 26, 2023

One year after the US Supreme Court struck down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the war over reproductive rights continues to rage in state legislatures, the courts, Congress and at the ballot box.

The high court's June 24, 2022 reversal of a woman's constitutional right to choose abortion, which had been the federal rule of law for almost 50 years, turned the authority to implement abortion laws over to individual states.

Status of the States
It sparked a wave of restrictions across the country, with 14 states enacting total abortion bans, including Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Gestational limits of six to 20 weeks are in effect and/or about to be implemented in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina and Utah.

Many of these laws are undergoing legal challenges. For now, at least, full bans have been blocked in Indiana, Ohio, Montana, South Carolina and Wyoming, although other limitations may be in effect.

Most Democrat-led states have passed laws to protect abortion access and providers. Abortion is currently legal in 25 states and D.C., including Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

While most of the initial laws focus on the abortion procedure, "medication abortion," or the abortion pill mifepristone, actually accounts for more than half of pregnancy terminations nationwide.

In a second major wave of attacks, 23 states have passed separate laws limiting distribution of the pill.

The US Supreme Court, on April 21, stayed a sweeping decision by conservative Trump-appointed Texas US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk which suspended distribution of mifepristone -- approved 23 years ago by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The decision means the drug will remain available in states where it is legal while the case continues through the appeals process -- led by the Biden administration.

The Texas case was returned to the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit, which heard oral arguments May 17. Regardless of the outcome, the case is ultimately expected to land back in the US Supreme Court.

In lieu of congressional action, President Biden has done what is within his limited powers -- issuing two Executive Orders to expand access to reproductive health care services and medication abortion and emergency contraception, while boosting legal and safety protections for health care services providers and mobile clinics.

Only Congress, however, can overcome the impact of the Supreme Court's decision by passing federal legislation to codify the rights once enshrined in Roe.

Repeated attempts to codify Roe's protections have failed in the narrowly divided House and Senate, which has also fought off attempts to ban abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

A June 16-20, 2023 NBC News poll showed 61% of American voters disapprove of the June 2022 Dobbs decision that overturned the federal protection of the right to abortion, compared to 36% who approved. Nearly 80% of female voters ages 18-49, two-thirds of suburban women, 60% of independents and even a third of Republican voters say they disapprove (MOE: +/- 3.1%).

The People
In the 2022 midterm elections, Americans rebelled against threats to their personal freedoms -- with 27% of voters ranking abortion as the most important issue in deciding their vote at the ballot box.

2022 also featured the most abortion-related ballot measures on record. Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont enshrined the right to abortion in their state constitutions, and voters in Kentucky and Montana rejected attempts to make abortion illegal.

In an effort to underscore the importance of the issue in the 2024 presidential election, reproductive rights groups EMILYs List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced their early endorsement of the Biden-Harris ticket last week.

“We will not let the most personal of decisions fall into the hands of politicians,” said Biden. “Make no mistake, this election is about freedom on the ballot once again.” The President announced a third Executive Order focused on "strengthening access to affordable, high-quality contraception."

At a rally in North Carolina on Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris -- the administration's voice on reproductive rights -- said, “Extremist Republicans in Congress have proposed to ban abortion nationwide. Nationwide. But I have news for them: We’re not having that. Americans believe in freedom. And we will not allow you to destroy our most basic rights and principles.”

All 12 of the current GOP name presidential candidates have pledged support for an abortion ban on some level.

Related
DemDaily: Supreme Court Stays Abortion Pill Ban 4/24/23
DemDaily: The New Abortion Battleground 4/11/23
DemDaily: Liberals Prevail in Wisconsin, Chicago 4/5/23

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: AP, Guttmacher Institute, NBC, CNN, New York Times, Roll Call

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