Abortion rights activists rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the span of just one month, four states—Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky—have all passed six-week abortion bans.
Without legal challenges to block the bans, these bills would outlaw abortion just two weeks after a missed period—before most people even know they’re pregnant.
That’s not the only plausible scenario, either. For people who use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as an implant or IUD, and may not get their periods anymore, it could be nearly impossible to notice a pregnancy caused by birth control failure until well after the six-week cutoff. (It’s important to know that LARCs are over 99% effective, but sometimes birth control does fail. Six-week bans make it extremely difficult to access care if that happens.)
To say this landscape is bleak is an understatement. We’re not trapped in the middle of an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. We can’t turn the last page of the book and breathe a heavy sigh of relief. This isn’t a dystopian nightmare we can wake up from. This is the reality of abortion access in the United States.
If you’re wondering whether these bills seem more extreme than other state-level anti-abortion legislation we’ve seen in recent years, you’d be correct. While the number of anti-abortion bills introduced in state legislatures in 2019 is comparable to the number introduced in 2018, the extremity of this year’s legislation is unprecedented.
Abortion rights organizations immediately challenged Mississippi and Kentucky’s six-week bans, and the ACLU has promised to sue in Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law on April 11. Georgia’s six-week ban is still sitting on Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk, but if he signs it, the legal response will likely be swift and mighty.
While we desperately need lower courts to block these unconstitutional bans, the catch here is that that is exactly what anti-abortion extremists want. After Brett Kavanaugh’s nauseating ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court, forced-birthers are doing everything they can to get their draconian, revolting abortion restrictions in front of the highest court’s conservative majority. They literally want to be sued.
As my colleague Meteor Blades writes, these bans would only reach the Supreme Court if an appeals court ignored Roe, but with the onslaught of Trump’s extremist judicial nominees, we can’t be too careful. It is critical that six-week bans and other extremist anti-abortion legislation never get near Kavanaugh’s forced-birther fingers.
It’s hard to know where to go from here. The good news is that while the abortion access landscape is bleak, it isn’t hopeless. All across the country, activists are mobilizing to challenge abortion bans in court, on the streets, and with their wallets. If you want to join the fight, please consider becoming a member of or volunteering with your state abortion fund or becoming a clinic escort at your local independent clinic.