Red states are pushing back against the Democrat-led goal of unfettered abortion anytime. Several Republican-controlled legislatures are crafting new abortion laws much like the one in Mississippi that is currently awaiting a Supreme Court decision.
Florida is the latest state to revise its abortion laws. The new Republican-led bill would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The current Florida law permits abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The new bill passed the state Senate last week in a 23-15 vote and mirrors the Mississippi law. Florida’s House of Representatives approved the same bill in a 78-39 vote in mid-February.
Jennifer Calfas, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says the bill now moves to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the new legislation. “ I think that we’ll be able to sign that in short order,” said Mr. DeSantis during a press conference.
GOP lawmakers in Arizona and West Virginia are also pushing bills that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in anticipation of the coming Supreme Court decision in June. The bills in both Arizona and West Virginia have passed one chamber in the state legislatures.
Democrats in other states are pressing for even more abortions. New Jersey lawmakers in January codified the right to reproductive choice, including abortion and access to contraception, into state law. In Vermont, a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights will appear on ballots in November.
Naturally, the Biden administration is pushing back against these red states. Vice President Kamala Harris said recently that the Biden administration would “continue to do everything in our power to protect access to healthcare and defend a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and determine her future.” No mention of what they would do to protect unborn Americans or their future. Harris called the Florida bill “extreme by any standard,” saying it would limit access to reproductive healthcare. I’m sure she meant any Democratic standard.
Antiabortion advocates say the legislation puts Florida more in line with neighboring states. Republicans who support the measure have defended it as a compromise that allows abortions, but prompts people to decide to get the procedure earlier in pregnancy. “This is a reasonable approach,” said state Senator Kelli Stargel, a Republican who voted to pass the bill.
It is uncertain what decision will be handed down by the Supreme Court. It may uphold the Mississippi law or even overturn Roe v. Wade entirely. If that happens, the decisions regarding abortion would be entirely left up to the states. That would return the issue to the voters who could then express their opinions in coming elections within states. The Roe v. Wade decision essentially took the issue out of the hands of voters by imposing one federal standard.
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi has argued that by 15 weeks of pregnancy a human fetus has made important physiological developments and claimed abortions are riskier by then. Attorneys for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, said nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent has recognized a person’s right to the procedure before the fetus is viable, meaning when it is capable of meaningful life outside of the womb. That was about 24 weeks when Roe v. Wade was decided. But recent advances in healthcare technology have made it possible to recognize the earlier development of the fetus and made it possible to survive outside the womb sooner.
Both the Mississippi and Florida laws include exceptions for medical emergencies – including those that threaten the life of the mother or for severe fetal abnormality. They do not include exemptions for rape or incest. These laws may have little real impact since the CDC estimates about 95% of abortions in the U.S. take place before 15 weeks of gestation.