Abortion bans are now officially in effect in Texas, Idaho, and Tennessee. All three states already limited abortions to six weeks, but as of Aug. 25, they are entirely banned. The three trigger laws are near-total bans with exceptions only in cases related to preventing the death or serious injury of a pregnant person. Texas’ and Tennessee’s laws make no exceptions for rape or incest.
Two months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, at least 12 states have near-total bans, and four have bans from six-to-20 weeks of pregnancy, leaving people in nearly one-third of the country without meaningful access to abortion care. Reproductive rights advocates have long been warning of the dangers of abortion deserts, and they are now a reality as residents in those states have to travel long distances to access abortion.
According to Melissa Fowler, the chief program officer at the National Abortion Federation (NAF), since the Dobbs decision in June, their National Abortion Hotline has seen an alarming rise in patients forced to leave their home states to access care hundreds of miles away because essential abortion care is either outlawed or criminalized where they live. In addition, NAF must now support their member providers with increasing security measures as anti-abortion extremists are roused by the bans.
“In short, these laws are dangerously politically motivated, designed to control people’s bodies, and are ultimately seriously harmful to abortion providers and people seeking this care,” Fowler said. “While this is a devastating moment for reproductive rights, we have seen an outpouring of support from individuals, whether in the form of the ballot measure vote in Kansas earlier this month or in the form of donations and support, and by local courts that have moved to block draconian bans and uphold reproductive rights.”
In Idaho, the ban almost went through without any exceptions for the health of the pregnant person until a federal judge ruled on Wednesday, Aug. 24, that it violated health law and would prevent emergency room doctors from stabilizing the health of people experiencing medical emergencies. The preliminary injunction now states that doctors in Idaho cannot be punished for performing an abortion to protect the health of the pregnant person.
The ban would also make anyone who performs an abortion subject to a felony punishable by two-to-five years in prison. Another law would allow people receiving the abortion or relatives to sue providers for a minimum $20,000 reward.
Meanwhile, near-total trigger bans have temporarily been blocked by local courts in Utah, Wyoming, and North Dakota. Last week, a state court in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state’s trigger ban from taking effect Aug. 26 while litigation proceeds. Abortion will remain legal in North Dakota while the case goes to trial. The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights; Weil, Gotshal, and Manges LLP; and Tom Dickson of Dickson Law Office on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic and its medical director.
“With today’s decision, the court rightfully recognized the harmful impacts this ban would have on North Dakotans,” said Meetra Mehdizadeh, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This trigger law completely disregards the health care needs of pregnant people and punishes doctors for providing critical, life-saving services to their patients. State lawmakers have been so hellbent on cutting off abortion access that they are trampling the North Dakota Constitution. We will continue to do everything we can to safeguard the rights of North Dakotans.”
Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, recently opened a new facility by the state border in Minnesota to make it easier for people in the region to access abortion care. They currently do not know how long the law will be blocked—there is no set timeline.
Courts are currently considering abortion ban suits in Arizona, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
“We also continue to be deeply inspired by our member providers across the country who are evolving creatively and thoughtfully to continue providing care and prioritizing patients’ well-being and personal medical decision-making during this public health crisis,” Fowler said. “NAF remains committed to helping anyone, no matter their income, race, or zip code access abortion care.”
According to Fowler, anyone in any state can call the NAF Hotline at 1-800-772-9100 to understand their options and get the assistance they need when finding a provider, arranging travel, or funding their care.