Sergio Martinez-Beltran / WPLN
The new anti-abortion jurisprudence of the US Supreme Court has prompted some states to further restrict the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy and to ban abortion completely in the event of a fall in Roe v. Wade. But the rush to regulate has exposed the division between groups and legislators who consider themselves fierce opponents of abortion.
On Thursday, Ohio became the last state to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. Ohio Right to Life has long advocated a more gradual approach to restricting the process and has ruled what is now called a "heartbeat bill" too radical – until this year. The limitation of abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It essentially bans the procedure after six weeks of gestation – before many women know that they are pregnant.
"We consider that the court is much more pro-life legislation than a generation ago," said press spokeswoman Jamieson Gordon. "So we thought it would be a good time to continue considering the heartbeat bill as the next step in our gradual approach to ending abortion on demand."
The Ohio law provides no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest; there is an exception for the life of the mother.
Some say that the rush to pass these bills concerns lawmakers who are fighting over their state's law in the Supreme Court. The state that helps to reverse the case Roe v. Wade would go into the story.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and advocacy group, more than 250 abortion-limiting bills have been tabled in 41 states this year.
"After the appointment of justice [Brett] Kavanaugh, there really is an environment in the state legislatures to cancel abortion rights. So we see these bans are just passing through, "says Elizabeth Nash, who oversees Guttmacher's state laws.
But the speed of adoption of some of these laws masks divisions on strategy and commitment to the cause within the anti-abortion movement.
Tennessee is fighting for a heartbeat bill
In Tennessee, for example, there is a philosophical split between pragmatists and idealists.
A heartbeat bill in the state has received significant support, particularly from the new governor of Tennessee. But the Republican Attorney General warned that such a law would be difficult to defend in court. And many Republicans, influenced by this logic, voted no for the bill with heartbeat.
"This is an extremely important issue for me, which is why I went into politics a lot of years ago," Republican State Secretary Bill Dunn said in a statement. the House of this measure earlier this year. Dunn says that he wants to stop the abortion, but that will require a strategy. He points out that no bill on heartbeats has ever been implemented. And recent laws in Iowa and Kentucky were immediately blocked in court. The same is expected for Ohio.
"First, it will probably never save a life if we stick to what has happened in the past," Dunn told Tennessee House.
But it was money that finally stopped the heartbeat bill this year in Tennessee (it stagnated in committee this week, though the Senate Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to consider this summer).
Senate Speaker Randy McNally is also pro-life, but has no interest in wasting taxpayers' money to make a point.
Even worse, in the eyes of Republicans who voted against the heartbeat bill, the state could end up paying the legal fees of groups who defend abortions.
"It's a big problem," says McNally. "We do not want to put money in their pockets.
The last time Tennessee had a case that went to the US Supreme Court, it cost about $ 1.9 million. The experiment was enough to make think some anti-abortion crusaders. They voted this week with Democrats for a one – year delay on a heart – breaking bill, promising to study the issue over the summer.
Calls by name in Oklahoma
Although this does not lead to a case that violates the Abortion Act, Republican legislatures such as Oklahoma want to be ready.
"If Roe v. Wade is overthrown, we will not be prepared," said Pro Tempore of Republican Senate Greg Treat, while explaining his "trigger bill" at a hearing before a committee held in February.
Treat's legislation, inspired by laws in a handful of states, would "trigger" a state ban on abortion and make it a crime if Roe was overthrown. A handful of states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota, already have laws on triggering.
Oklahoma has some of the most stringent abortion laws in the country, such as mandatory counseling and a 72-hour waiting period. But the most conservative anti-abortion activists in the state want more immediate action. So they targeted Treat and other self-proclaimed pro-life Republicans with protests, billboards and leaflets, accusing them of not being enough anti-abortion.
"I've been calling all the names of the book these last weeks," Treat said. "My Christianity was questioned.A member of my own caucus held a press conference and called me a hypocrite."
In response, Treat dropped the trigger bill.
Now he's trying something else – an amendment to the state constitution that would reinforce the fact that nothing in Oklahoma law "guarantees or protects" the right to abortion. But it's still not enough anti-abortion for some.
"This will add to the legacy we have of death and the status quo, a pro-life policy that does nothing," said Republican Senator Justin Silk.
Not far enough in Georgia
In Georgia, a heartbeat bill was passed by the Legislature, but stopped at Governor Brian Kemp's office. Proponents of the right to abortion do not want him to sign it, of course, but some anti-abortion activists are not happy either.
"It just does not go far enough in protecting innocent human life," said Georgia Right to Life Executive Director Zemmie Fleck. Fleck argues that some exceptions in his state's bill – for abortions after rape or incest if the woman makes a police report – loosen her up.
Governor Kemp has until May 12 to sign or veto the measure.
Cost like no object in Kentucky
The American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky filed a lawsuit the day after Governor Matt Bevin promulgated the law. Even in his annual speech to the Kentucky legislature in February, Bevin acknowledged his intention to challenge Roe v. Wade.
"Some of them will go to the United States Supreme Court, but at the end of the day we will take it because we are on the right side and we are on the side of the United States. of life, "said Bevin.
Kentucky is used to defending abortion restrictions in court. Currently, a law making it criminal for a doctor to perform a regular abortion in the second trimester has been suspended indefinitely.
It is unclear how much it costs Kentucky to defend abortion laws that are immediately contested. Woody Maglinger, spokesman for the Bevin Administration, wrote in an email that the state was using in-house lawyers and that he had not hired an outside attorney . He refuses to provide an estimate of the cost of the hours devoted to these cases.
"It's impossible to put a price tag on human lives," writes Maglinger.
This story is part of a reporting partnership including NPR, Kaiser Health News and member stations. Blake Farmer is Nashville Public Radio's lead health care reporter and Jackie Fortier is the leading health care reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma. Marlene Harris-Taylor at WCPN in Cleveland, Lisa Gillespie at WFPL in Louisville and Alex Olgin at WFAE in Charlotte, NC, also contributed to the story.