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Abortion law update

Over the past several months, multiple states have been quietly drafting bills and rewriting laws, several of which have only become public knowledge in the past few weeks. There is so much information coming in at once, with cases that will likely culminate at the United States Supreme Court. These new parameters established by individual states may set up a historic court case that could challenge the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. First, the restrictive state laws that recently passed have not gone into effect and will not go into effect unless they are tried and upheld in the US Supreme Court. For those who don’t know the specifics of the landmark court case, Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling stated that any state law which banned abortions in cases where the mother’s life is at state would be a constitutional violation. Although the 1989 decision of Webster vs. Reproductive Health allowed for states’ rights to apply more restrictions, individual states’ abortion “bans” still violate Roe vs. Wade. This ruling is what led to the trimester hierarchy in modern abortion debates, and the forensic linguistic interpretation of Right to Privacy influenced future HIPAA laws. Here are the up to date things to know around the country.

  • Washington state was the first state to legalize abortion, three years before Roe vs. Wade was upheld at the federal level. The Reproductive Privacy Act was made law by popular vote in 1991, which protects the right of women to make reproductive choices. This law was followed by Initiative 120, which amended the state constitution to reflect these laws. The Reproductive Privacy Act also makes it illegal to require parental or spousal permission or to enforce unreasonable waiting periods. Activists who were part of the 1991 push to create these laws acknowledge they did so in the event Roe vs. Wade was ever overturned or challenged.
  • Oregon House Bill 3391, also known as the Reproductive Health Equity Act, was signed into law on July 5th, 2017, and created some of the most strident public health rights in the nation. On February 2, 2019, SB3391 was renewed by the House. A vital feature of this law is that it also removed gender restrictions; this means a male identifying person who became pregnant could still have access to reproductive care, even if their insurance only covers those services for female-identifying persons.
  • As of May 21st, a Rhode Island bill that contained wording that put abortion protections into the state constitution was voted down, although legislators are currently in rewrites of that bill as well as writing additional abortion rights language into existing bills.
  • In early 2017 Proposal 5 passed the Vermont Senate. This Proposal hopes to amend the state constitution, ensuring that safe abortion up to twelve weeks is established law should Roe vs. Wade be overturned.
  • Current Illinois law bans all abortions after twelve weeks and has repeatedly been challenged as it violates Roe vs. Wade, in addition to the unreasonably high fetal viability restrictions. In February 2019 legislators introduced a bill that would repeal older portions of the laws and codify a person’s “autonomous right” to an abortion. This week lawmakers around the state pushed for action on the bill in response to nationwide bans.
  • In 1992 Maryland voted to codify a woman’s right to abortion up to fetal viability. In early 2019 House Speaker Michael Busch drafted a bill to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights further; on Thursday his successor said she would continue to push the bill.
  • Although Nevada currently has strict restrictions, Senate Bill 179, which decriminalizes outpatient abortion procedure and will remove specific physician counseling requirements, is set to be voted on in the next week.


California, Delaware, Hawaii, and Maine have existing state laws protecting women’s reproductive rights. As of this week, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas all have total bans on abortion pending; only Alabama has passed a ban.


  • Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota and New York all have “fetal heartbeat bills” pending. These bills cut off abortion access at six weeks, far below the 24 weeks indicated by Roe vs. Wade. Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi have all passed these bills.
  • Utah and Arkansas have limited procedures to before eighteen weeks, well within the first trimester.


Although many states have tried to pass similar bans and restrictions, all of which have been shut down at higher courts, the number of legislative changes coming in at once nationwide is unprecedented. If you want to do something to help fight for abortion rights, donate to groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, The Center for Reproductive Rights, or the ACLU. If money is tight, many groups, especially those that are smaller or work solely with marginalized communities, need volunteer workers. If you are not a resident of a state facing a ban, the best way to access politicians in those states is by mail. Especially right now, phone lines are jammed, and it is crucial that local people who represent the jurisdiction can get through, but piles of letters certainly help. Check out the 5 Calls app for tips on getting ahold of state representatives. Keep up to date, and keep informed about grassroots efforts around the country.


Morgan Wigmore

Morgan is a Seattle Central alumni currently attending Oregon State University where she is majoring in Anthropology. In addition to writing, she enjoys painting and linguistics. She lives in a very small house with a very fat cat.

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