New Near-Total Abortions Bans Take Effect in Five States This Week

Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas will begin enforcing near-total abortion bans Thursday, and a fifth state — North Dakota — is set to do so Friday. 12 states will have outlawed almost all abortions by the end this week.

Before this week, abortions were legalized in three of these states, but they were difficult to obtain. After Roe v. WadeJune 24th, the federal right to abortion was overturned. Idaho and Tennessee then began enforcing six week bans. Until Friday, abortion is legal in North Dakota up until 22 weeks of pregnancy, but the state’s sole clinic has already moved across the Red River, relocating in neighboring Minnesota. Oklahoma and Texas already have laws banning abortions. But the new laws that take effect Thursday place new legal sanctions on those who provide the service.

These laws mark a new phase of the post-election era.Roe world. All but Oklahoma’s bans are so-called trigger laws — state abortion bans that were crafted in anticipation of the Supreme Court eliminating federal abortion rights, which it did in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. Some of these laws were to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case. This formality occurred on July 25. North Dakota’s ban required the attorney general to certify that Roe had been overturned — which he did June 28 — but a state judge intervened to delay enforcement until this Friday.

Oklahoma’s latest ban, Senate Bill 612,As part of a wave anti-abortion laws, which were erected in anticipation the passing of the legislation, it was passed this spring Dobbs decision. The ban made abortion a crime and sentencing was up to 10 years in prison. Texas’ trigger law Also, performing abortion is considered a crime and carries a $100k fine.

Beyond the dozen states banning abortion, three others — Ohio, Georgia and South Carolina — are enforcing laws that ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Florida has enacted an abortion ban for 15 weeks. Utah has an 18-week ban.

Tennessee’s ban has added to a regional abortion desert in the Southeast. Now, people seeking abortions in the South have few options — they can travel to North Carolina, Illinois or Indiana(where an abortion ban takes effect on September 15). Florida also allows people who are less than 15 weeks old to travel.

Already, clinics operating in these states have made plans for their closure and in some cases, relocation to other states. CHOICES, a Memphis clinic that operated under the name CHOICES, is establishing a new facility. Carbondale, IllinoisIn an effort to provide care for some of those patients who might be travelling to the state, the state is becoming an abortion haven. Planned Parenthood’s Tennessee clinics are no longer providing abortions. The Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health has been permanently closed. This independent abortion clinic was located in Knoxville. As of Wednesday, only one independent clinic in Tennessee — Carafem, just outside of Nashville — was still providing abortions.

The Department of Justice has sued to challenge Idaho’s trigger ban, which allows abortions only in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the pregnant person is at risk. These exceptions are often difficult to enforce or qualify. A judge ruled Wednesday in the federal government’s favor, blocking any provisions of the law that might be used to ban abortion in emergency room settings. The ruling came one day after a Texas judge rejected the government’s position on the same issue.

However, the Idaho decision does not allow for clinic-based non-emergency abortions. Rebecca Gibron, CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest (Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky), said that this decision is not allowed. That means that Idaho’s remaining two abortion clinics, both operated by Planned Parenthood, will no longer be providing the service.

People seeking abortions in Idaho will now need to travel outside the state, likely to Washington and Oregon. This journey can span hundreds of kilometres, often through mountainous terrain that can make it difficult to drive. Sometimes, the interstate linking Idaho and Washington is closed to snow.

“There’s always been barriers to abortion care in Idaho,” Gibron said. “Adding in this component where abortion is banned in the state really exacerbates the serious challenges people are going to be facing.”

Already, Idaho’s six-week ban has put a crunch on abortion access. People from eastern Oregon might have previously visited an Idaho clinic. They and Idaho residents now travel west to get abortions, according to Anne Udall (president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette), in Oregon. One patient, she said, took a $1200 taxi from Boise (Idaho) to Bend, Oregon. Udall explained that Planned Parenthood will reimburse her the cost for the taxi ride.

“Just really understanding the impact of what is happening to individuals is really important,” she said. “If people don’t have resources we want them to know they are out there.”