WASHINGTON — A six-week abortion ban in Texas enacted in September forced those seeking abortion services in the Lone Star State to look across state lines for care.
But the timing couldn’t have been worse for Texans living near the state’s eastern border.
The law took effect as neighboring Louisiana was reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Ida, which shut down two of the state’s three abortion clinics for several days. The growing number of patients seeking help had to wait until the clinics could restore power, or travel hundreds of miles to other providers.
But that was just a preview of the obstacles that would emerge if the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. For example, Louisiana’s own law would shift to the same 15-week ban, advocates say.
The landmark abortion case that will be heard by the nation’s top court on Dec. 1, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, could spur a cascade of legal changes across two dozen states if justices back the restrictive Mississippi law — and potentially dismantle the landmark 1973 ruling affirming the right to an abortion.
Access would be most severely restricted in a long band of neighboring states stretching across the South and Midwest, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is challenging the law.
The process would be far more time-consuming for those who have the means to travel elsewhere. And states with fewer restrictions would be bombarded with patients seeking out a shrinking number of providers.
The organization has identified 24 states as “hostile” to abortion rights, meaning those states could immediately or very quickly prohibit abortion. They have laws that were on hold but would automatically go into effect or could be enforced again, or lawmakers there are likely to attempt new bans.
Among those are: Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
A dozen states — including Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri and Idaho — have “trigger laws” that would go into effect banning abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization focused on reproductive health and rights.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and five others still have abortion bans that pre-date Roe v. Wade on the books, which would become enforceable again if the precedent is overturned. That list shrunk by one earlier this year, when New Mexico repealed its pre-Roe ban.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are 15 states that have laws protecting the right to abortion, a tally that includes Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Oregon, according to Guttmacher.
In Kansas, a state Supreme Court decision in 2019 found the right to bodily autonomy embedded in the state Constitution guaranteed access to abortion. But state voters could change that next year, when a constitutional amendment will be on the ballot to reverse that ruling.
Narrower ruling also would mean new bans
While the Mississippi case will be heard by a Supreme Court with a new conservative majority following the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, it’s not clear that it will lead to a complete reversal of Roe. Read more