An abortion rights activist during a demonstration in front of the White House – Copyright AFP/File ROBERTO SCHMIDT
Abortion became illegal in three more US states on Thursday, further restricting access to elective terminations for millions of women despite some signs of popular and judicial pushback.
Two months after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, nearly 21 million women have already lost access to the procedure in their home states, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
And with Idaho, Tennessee and Texas joining 10 other Republican-controlled states on Thursday in implementing near-total bans on abortion, that number is set to rise. Another dozen states are expected to follow suit with their own restrictions.
The laws in Idaho, Tennessee and Texas were “triggered” after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision enshrining a woman’s right to an abortion and allowed states to set their own laws.
In Texas, under the new law, doctors could face life in prison and a fine of no less than $100,000 for performing an abortion. Texas and Tennessee make no exceptions for rape or incest, though Idaho does.
State restrictions range from total bans on elective abortions to bans after six weeks, when many women do not even know they are pregnant. Many women have already been forced to travel hundreds of miles to obtain the procedure in other states.
Democratic President Joe Biden condemned the ruling by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court and has pledged to do everything within his power to ensure access to abortion.
The Biden administration notched up a narrow victory in Idaho on Wednesday when a judge ruled that federal law requires doctors to provide abortions to women suffering medical emergencies at hospitals that receive Medicare funding from the government.
In an illustration of the complicated legal landscape, however, a judge in Texas, an appointee of Republican Donald Trump, issued a contrary ruling in a similar case, setting the stage for further court battles.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre welcomed the outcome in Idaho but called the Texas ruling a “devastating decision for women in that state, who can now be denied the same life-saving care.”
Besides battling in the courts, Democrats are hoping abortion will be a galvanizing issue for their candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.
US voters will decide control of Congress in November, with all 435 House seats up for grabs, as well as 35 of the 100 Senate seats and the governor’s mansion in 36 out of 50 states.
– ‘Health care is on the ballot’ –
“More women today are living with fewer freedoms thanks to Republicans’ relentless war to ban abortion in their states,” Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison said.
“Make no mistake: No matter what state you live in, reproductive health care is on the ballot this November, and GOP candidates will be held accountable for their extreme anti-choice agenda,” Harrison said.
A Democratic candidate notched up a victory in a special election in New York on Tuesday seen as a bellwether of the public mood on abortion ahead of November’s midterms.
According to political data firm Target Smart, women have been outpacing men in new voter registrations in numerous states.
In a Pew Research Center poll, 56 percent of registered voters said the abortion issue will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43 percent in March.
Abortion rights advocates also recently celebrated a victory in a referendum in Kansas that would have removed the right to the procedure from the constitution of the conservative midwestern state.
The state is a Republican stronghold, but Kansans, by a 59 to 41 percent margin amid unusually heavy turnout, rejected the amendment that would have scrapped language in the state constitution guaranteeing the right to abortion.
Planned Parenthood, which lobbies for abortion access and plans to reportedly spend $50 million on the midterms, called the Kansas vote “a clear warning to anti-abortion politicians.”
While some two dozen Republican-led states are restricting access to abortion, a number of Democratic-controlled states, including giants California and New York, are putting protections in place.