The legal wrangling over states’ so-called trigger laws is continuing to unfold a month after the Supreme Court ended Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, creating uncertainty for abortion providers and people seeking the procedure.
Trigger laws:Thirteen states had these on the books dating to 2005. They were intended to ban or limit abortion almost immediately if Roe v. Wade was overturned and are among the 26 states that were considered certain or likely to move quickly to ban abortion.
The Supreme Court issued its judgment on July 26, a pro forma step in the process that triggered a 30-day countdown in some states, including Tennessee, which prohibits all abortions while outlining an unusual defense for abortion providers in limited cases.
Legal challenges: Abortion providers have sued several states. Many argue these laws violate state constitutional protections. A look at where things stand:
- Judges put trigger laws on hold Louisiana, Kentucky and Utah
- Other challenges have been made in Idaho, Oklahoma and North Dakota
What’s next: More lawsuits are likely, said Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor who focuses on abortion. But such challenges may amount to “buying time,” she said, in states with more than one type of abortion ban and where legislatures are dominated by abortion opponents
The future of abortion access in many states will ultimately hinge on upcoming state elections and ballot measures, said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It all hangs in the balance in 2022 and ultimately 2024,” he said earlier this month.
Here’s the latest:
What happened: A Planned Parenthood group that operates two clinics in Idaho filed a challenge to the state’s 2020 trigger law on June 27.
The law: Abortion is banned except in instances when the pregnancy puts the woman’s life at risk and scheduled to take effect 30 days after Roe v. Wade opinion’s issuance. Providers can face up to five years in prison. It makes exceptions for police-reported case of incest or rape, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The challenge: The lawsuit argues the ban violates state constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection and is “unconstitutionally vague,” including by failing to detail when providers can offer services without facing penalties.
How abortion providers are responding: Planned Parenthood Greater Northwest spokesperson Katie Rodihan told the Idaho Capital Sun that the organization plans to provide abortion care for as long as legally possible and that several clinics had increased the number of available appointments.
What’s next: Planned Parenthood has asked the court to schedule oral arguments for Aug. 3, the Capital Sun reported. That’s the same day the court is also expected to hear a challenge to Idaho’s Texas-style ban prohibiting abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The ban also authorizes family members to sue medical providers for performing an abortion.
What happened: Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry on June 30 granted a request by the state’s two abortion providers for a temporary restraining order targeting the state’s trigger law that bans abortions. He also agreed to temporarily block enforcement of a law that bans abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.
The law: Abortion is banned except to prevent the death or permanent injury of a pregnant woman.
The challenge: Filed by Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only two providers. It argues that Kentucky’s constitution protects the right to privacy.
How abortion providers are responding: Abortion services ended in Kentucky on June 24, the day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down abortion as a federal constitutional right Currently, abortions remain available as the challenge proceeds.
What’s next: Judge Perry has given both sides until July 18 to file briefs and said he will rule sometime after that. A ballot initiative will be put to voters in November that, if approved, would establish that no state constitutional right to abortion exists.
What happened: Authorities were blocked from enforcing a trigger law’s near-total ban on abortion under a judge’s order released\ July 12 by a state court. Previously, New Orleans Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso issued a temporary restraining order in June and another judge ruled on July 8 that the challenge had to change venues.
The law: Abortions are outlawed. In June, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill updating various aspects of the law and subjecting abortion providers to up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000. Edwards’ office said the bill allows the use of emergency contraception “for victims of rape and incest prior to when a pregnancy can be clinically diagnosed,” according to the Associated Press.
The challenge: The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hope Medical Group for Women and others, challenging the constitutionality of what it described as “vague trigger laws” that made it impossible to tell which laws were in effect, what conduct was prohibited and what exceptions and criminal penalties apply.
How abortion providers are responding: The Hope Medical Group for Women clinic in Shreveport is ready to resume counseling and abortions, said Kathaleen Pittman, director of the north Louisiana clinic that was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press. Louisiana’s two other clinics are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
What’s next: Judge Donald Johnson set a hearing for July 18. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican who is a staunch abortion opponent, vowed to fight the judge’s ruling and enforce the law.
What happened: The state’s last abortion provider has withdrawn its lawsuit asking Mississippi’s Supreme Court to keep the state from enforcing its trigger ban, which went into effect July 7, along with another six-week abortion ban.
The law: Any person who knowingly performs or attempts to induce an abortion, except the pregnant woman, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison. The law contains exceptions for police-reported rape and endangerment to the life of a mother.
How abortion providers are responding: The state’s only abortion clinic has been sold and will not reopen even if it’s allowed to do so by a state court, its owner told The Associated Press on Monday.
What’s next: A spokeswoman for the Mississippi Center for Justice, which was working on behalf of the clinic, said the group had dismissed its case.
What happened: The Red River Women’s Clinic, the state’s sole abortion provider, filed a lawsuit on July 7 seeking to block enforcement of the state’s trigger ban, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The law: Prohibits nearly all abortions. Providers found in violation face a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The challenge: The lawsuit argues the state constitution guarantees the rights of life, liberty, safety and happiness, and that it also protects the right to abortion.
How abortion providers are responding: The state’s Attorney General has said the trigger ban will take effect July 28. North Dakota’s Red River Women’s Clinic is currently providing abortion care but clinic leader Tammi Kromenaker told the Associated Press it plans to move the clinic to Minnesota if legal challenges fail.
What’s next: No hearing dates have been set.
What happened: Oklahoma abortion providers and advocates on July 1 filed a lawsuit challenging two state bans including a pre-Roe ban and a trigger law, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is a party to the lawsuit.
The law:Set to take effect in August, it would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by as much as a decade in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The challenge: Linda Goldstein, an attorney for the groups, said in a statement that those laws “cannot be squared” with the state constitution.
How abortion providers are responding: Abortions were halted in Oklahoma in May when Gov. Kevin Stitt signed two citizen-enforced bans. Those were also challenged, but no decisions have been rendered.
What’s next: The lawsuit asks the state Supreme Court to issue an emergency order to block the bans while litigation on the merits proceeds. No hearing dates have been set.
What happened: Judge Andrew Stone of the Third Judicial District Court for Salt Lake City on July 11 put on hold Utah’s trigger law banning most abortions until a lawsuit challenging it is decided.
The law: Most abortions are banned with some limited exceptions, and anyone found guilty of performing an abortion could face up to 15 years in prison. Aimed mainly at providers, state lawmakers have acknowledged that a woman who self-administers an abortion, including through medication, could face charges.d
The challenge: Planned Parenthood of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a lawsuit on June 25, contending the 2020 law violates the state constitution’s equal protection and privacy provisions.
How abortion providers are responding: Utah’s Planned Parenthood resumed abortions at several locations since the judge halted the law, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a statement that it was part of a “long and difficult fight.”
What’s next: State officials argued Utah’s constitution does not protect the right to abortion. No future hearings have been set, according to Planned Parenthood.
A look at other states
Other states are seeing challenges to their abortion laws, according to the Center for Reproductive rights and news reports:
► In Florida, a court on July 5 allowed the state’s 15-week abortion to stay in effect during a legal challenge that argues that the law violates the state constitution, which contains a privacy clause that protects abortion.
► In Texas, the state’s Supreme Court ruled July 1 that the state’s 1925 pre-Roe ban could take effect after being initially blocked by a lower court, according to the Associated Press. Under a different law, abortion providers can face citizen lawsuits and financial penalties. And a separate 2021 trigger law outlawing nearly all abortions is set to take effect in the coming weeks.
► In Arizona, a judge on July 11 blocked enforcement of the state’s “personhood” law, which gave fetuses at each stage of development “all rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state.” Arizona has a 15-week abortion ban set to take effect Sept. 24. Abortion providers across the state stopped all procedures because of concerns that the pre-Roe ban, which hasn’t been enforced, according to the Associated Press.
► In West Virginia, the ACLU and other groups filed a lawsuit June 29 to prevent the enforcement of a pre-roe ban from the 1800s from going into effect. A hearing is expected next week, according to West Virginia Public Radio.
► In South Carolina, Planned Parenthood on July 13 filed a lawsuit seeking to block the state’s six-week abortion ban, which the state is now enforcing, arguing that it violates a state constitutional right to privacy.
Contributing: The Arizona Republic; The Clarion-Ledger; The Louisville Courier Journal; The Greenville News; The Tennessean; The Associated Press.
Chris Kenning is a national news writer. Reach him at email@example.com and on Twitter @chris_kenning.
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