The South’s Last Three Abortion-Safe States Are Bracing for a Post-Roe Future

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argumentsIn Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a high-profile case about the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the law, which has no exceptions for rape or incest, in 2018, with the intention that it would take effect if Roe v. WadeThey were overturned. This 1973 landmark case established a legal framework that allowed abortions until the 24 week mark of pregnancy.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s sole abortion provider, sued the state over the law, and the case ended up at the high court. As the Dec. 1 arguments unfolded there, the majority of justices on the conservative-dominated court appeared sympathetic to the arguments of Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who rejected the idea of a constitutional right to abortion and said the issue should be left to the states. Katherine Kraschel is a Yale Law School lecturer and a reproductive policy expert. toldThe 19th, a non-profit newsroom that she had previously considered Roe would be incrementally gutted but after hearing the oral arguments is now “more convinced that there are five justices poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Abortion rights exist already severely limited in the South, 11 of the 26 statesIt is possible or certain that the ban on abortion should be implemented RoeAccording to a Guttmacher Institute analysis in October, fall is in the region. Ten of those 11 Southern states already have on the books what are known as “trigger bans” — laws or constitutional provisions outlawing abortion that would take effect automatically if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

Only three states in the South — Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia — do not currently have such abortion bans on the books. Facing South spoke with reproductive rights advocates in those states about how they’re preparing in advance of the Supreme Court’s ruling, expected in June.

Florida’s Drumbeat of Resistance

In FloridaA woman can now request an abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, up to 24 weeks. They must attend state-directed counseling to discourage it. They must also have an ultrasound done beforehand with the option of viewing the image. Parents of minor patients must also be notified. But its abortion laws are much less draconian than in neighboring Alabama, for example, which — in addition to having a trigger law on the books — imposes a 48-hour waiting period for people seeking an abortion, bans abortions 22 weeks after the last menstrual period, and requires parental consent for minor patients.

“[Given] the restrictions that exist in our neighboring states, we have been seeing patients coming here for care for quite a while,” said Amy Weintraub, the reproductive rights program director for Progress Florida, an organizing nonprofit based in St. Petersburg. “When you compare Florida to other states we also have a much larger number of providers.”

A recent attempt to ban abortion in Florida was unsuccessful. State Rep. Webster Barnaby (a Republican who represents part Volusia County) introduced legislation in September. HB 167, a copycat version controversial Texas law that enforces a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy by allowing anyone to bring a civil lawsuit against anyone who assists in the abortion — from a doctor to an Uber driver — and collect a $10,000 penalty from them. The Florida law included exceptions for rape and incest as well as a life-threatening medical emergency. The financial payout component was questioned by the state House leaders. Florida Phoenix reportedThe bill was not approved.

The right to abortion has been protected by the Florida Supreme Court for a long time. In 1989, for example, it ruled that a pregnant minor’s right to privacy outweighed protecting an embryo or fetus, and it reaffirmed that decision in 2003, as Slate reported. But since taking office in 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has appointed five conservatives to the court, which has gone on to issue 14 decisions that directly or indirectly overturned precedents on various issues, according to Slate’s analysis.

Weintraub anticipates that a 15-week abortion ban legislation will be introduced during the 2022 legislative sessions, which begin in January. Her group and Floridians for Reproductive Freedom (a coalition of more than 70 advocacy groups) have prepared a plan to prepare for that. Jan. 12 marchTallahassee’s state capitol to support abortion rights. Bus transportation and meals are provided by organizers to make the demonstration more accessible to more Floridians.

“We need to keep that drumbeat of resistance against abortion bans going throughout the legislative session,” Weintraub said.

North Carolina: Unperturbed

North Carolina had a major policy change that affected reproductive rights advocates. victoryThis year, however, it suffered a setback. In June, a federal appeals court ruled the law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, which was in force since 1973, was still unenforceable. The governor. Roy Cooper (D) signed the into law the state budget passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, which included funding for crisis pregnancy centers — nonprofit organizations that discourage people from getting abortions.

“There’s a lot of money allocated for these pregnancy crisis centers, which may not seem on the face directly related to abortion care. But it really is, because these are fake clinics that are getting state funding, and their goal is to lead people away from abortion clinics,” said Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, director of engagement at the Carolina Abortion Fund, a nonprofit that helps people pay for and access abortion services in the Carolinas. She pointed out that crisis pregnancy centers are often not staffed by medical professionals and exist to “run down the clock” for pregnant people seeking abortions.

North Carolina currently has 15 clinicsThey perform abortions far more often than many Southern states, including Tennessee and South Carolina. “We already do see people from South Carolina coming into Charlotte, because Charlotte has four clinics,” Tara Romano, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said during a recent webinar. “If Roe is overturned, we might see more people coming into North Carolina.”

According to the Carolina Abortion Fund report, two people needed funds to travel from Texas to North Carolina for abortions after Texas passed its draconian ban on abortion.

Orlovsky-Schnitzler said her organization is undeterred by what’s happening at the Supreme Court. “People need procedures every single day and will continue to need procedures, regardless of what happens with the court system,” she said.

She said that the greatest challenge the abortion fund faces, aside from raising awareness about their services for low-income women who cannot afford them, is funding. Funding is mainly sourced from individual donations. Because most clinics are located in urban areas, the organization is especially focused on rural Carolinians who need abortion care.

Virginia Political Sea Change

Virginia currently has the South’s most liberal abortion laws. Last year the Democratic-controlled legislature passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA), which ended a 24-hour waiting period for abortion along with mandatory ultrasounds, biased counseling, and requirements that clinics have standards similar to hospitals and that only physicians can perform abortions.

“RHPA did do a lot to lift those barriers for people across the board, but especially for some of the most marginalized people in the commonwealth,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

Advocates for abortion rights are pressing state lawmakers to pass Reproductive Health Equity Act. This comprehensive insurance policy would cover all reproductive health services in Virginia, including prenatal and postpartum care, family planning, and routine cancer screenings. It would also cover contraception. RHEA will overwhelmingly help low income people of color, said Carlota Arians, interim manager at the Virginia office of Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, an organization with offices in New York, Florida, Texas, Washington, D.C.

“I think every Virginian should have the full range of access to reproductive care regardless of their income, background or immigration or migration status,” said Arias.

But the recent elections in Virginia dramatically changed the state’s political landscape, with the election of anti-abortion Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor and the GOP’s capture of the state House. Only the state Senate remains under Democratic rule. Exit polls from last month indicate otherwise. showedMost Virginians support legalized abortion in all or most cases.

“We know that the majority of Virginians will not accept any type of attack on abortion rights or access,” Keene said. “They will not accept bans on abortions, they certainly will not accept a Texas-style abortion ban, and they will hold legislatures and the governor accountable for any and all action they take to roll back their rights.”