Abortion providers and patients are struggling to navigate the evolving legal landscape around abortion laws and access across the country since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week.
In Florida, a law banning abortions after 15 weeks went into effect Friday, a day after a judge called it a violation of the state constitution and said he would sign an order temporarily blocking the law next week. . The ban could have broader implications in the South, where the state has broader access to the procedure than its neighbors.
The right to abortion has been lost and regained in the span of a few days in Kentucky. A so-called trigger law imposing a near-total ban on the procedure went into effect last Friday, but a judge blocked the law on Thursday, meaning the state’s only two abortion providers can resume caring for patients, for now. .
In Texas, abortions up to six weeks have resumed at some clinics after a Houston judge said patients still had that right, at least until a new ban on virtually all abortions takes effect in the coming weeks. But the state has asked the Texas Supreme Court to block that order and let prosecutors enforce the abortion ban now, adding to the uncertainty.
Legal wrangling is almost certain to continue to wreak havoc for Americans seeking abortions for the foreseeable future, with court rulings likely to nullify access at any time and an influx of new out-of-state patients overwhelming providers.
Some of the cases involve trigger laws designed specifically to restrict abortion if Roe were to fall, while other laws had been on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling and are now being enforced. Many of the legal challenges to abortion restrictions argue that their state constitution guarantees access to the procedure.
Even when women travel outside of states where abortion is prohibited, they may have fewer options to terminate their pregnancies as the prospect of prosecution hounds them.
This week, Planned Parenthood of Montana stopped providing medical abortions to patients living in states with bans in place, including South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The move reflects how seriously the prospect of prosecution is being taken, including for abortion providers in states that have preserved abortion rights.
Planned Parenthood North Central States, which offers the procedure in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, tells its patients they must take both pills in the regimen in a state that allows abortions.
Emily Bisek, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said that in an “unknown and murky” legal environment, they decided to tell patients they must be in a state where it is legal to complete a medical abortion, which requires taking two pills with 24 48 hours apart. She said most patients in states with bans are expected to opt for surgical abortions.
The use of abortion pills has been the most common method of ending a pregnancy since 2000, when the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, the main drug used in medical abortions. Taken with misoprostol, a drug that causes cramps that empty the womb, it constitutes the abortion pill.
Access to pills has become a key battle in abortion rights, with the Biden administration preparing to argue that states cannot ban a drug that has received FDA approval.
Kim Floren, who runs an abortion fund in South Dakota called the Justice Empowerment Network, said the development would further limit the options women have and likely mean more will travel to Colorado for abortions.
“The purpose of these laws is to scare people anyway,” Floren said of state abortion bans and telemedicine consultations for medical abortions. “The logistics of enforcing this are a nightmare, but they are based on the fact that people will freak out.”
A South Dakota law went into effect Friday that threatens felony punishment for anyone who prescribes medication for an abortion without a license from the South Dakota Board of Osteopathic and Medical Examiners.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, a staunch opponent of abortion, said in a statement that “doctors who knowingly break the law and prescribe these drugs to take a human life will be prosecuted.”
Groves reported from Sioux Falls, SD