Updated on April 11, 2019:
On April 11, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law a ban on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know that they are pregnant. This makes Ohio the third state to enact such a ban in 2019, with Kentucky and Mississippi doing so earlier this year (neither is currently in effect).
The torrent of extreme legislation is likely to continue, with Georgia poised to become the fourth state to enact a six-week ban this year. Both the Georgia House and State Senate have passed legislation to that effect, and Governor Kemp is signaling that he will sign it into law.
Six-week bans have also moved in Missouri and Tennessee legislatures, while they have been introduced—but have not yet moved—in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia. In addition, North Dakota (2013) and Iowa (2017) have already enacted such bans (neither is in effect).
Through April 11, 14 states have introduced, moved, or enacted 6-week bans this year, underscoring the extreme scope and unprecedented volume of these bills. Banning abortion at six weeks has emerged as a leading tactic for antiabortion politicians and activists, with the ultimate goal of challenging Roe v. Wade at the U.S. Supreme Court.
First published March 22, 2019:
Antiabortion activists and politicians have kicked their decades-long agenda to ban abortion in America into high gear through a series of increasingly radical and dangerous state-level laws. Between January 1, 2019 and March 20, 2019, 304 abortion restrictions were introduced in states across the country.
One trend that stands out is the surge in states wanting to ban abortion at six weeks’ gestation—before most people even know that they are pregnant. Prior to this year, six-week bans were rarely enacted, as antiabortion activists and politicians publicly focused their efforts on other restrictions, like targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws, that severely undermine access but are designed not to appear to be frontal assaults on abortion rights.
Six-week abortion bans are a different story altogether. Such a ban was first introduced in Ohio in 2011, and was first enacted in North Dakota in 2013. Iowa enacted a similar six-week ban in 2018. Both laws have been struck down by the courts.
Despite the legal repudiation of such blatant abortion bans, in the first 10 weeks of 2019 alone, Kentucky and Mississippi banned abortion at six weeks, while similar legislation has moved in Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. In addition, six-week bans have been introduced but have not yet moved in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The fact that states are advancing radical abortion bans that are clearly in violation of Roe v. Wade is part of a deliberate strategy to advance these cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, in hopes that an increasingly conservative Court will undermine or even overturn Roe. In effect, each state-level ban is just as much about abortion rights nationwide as it is about restricting access in any particular state.
Other types of abortion bans are also getting attention this year. Arkansas enacted legislation that bans abortion at 18 weeks of pregnancy and enacted a “trigger law” that would ban abortion completely if Roe v. Wade were overturned. And Kentucky also banned abortion in cases of race or sex selection or genetic anomaly. Although none of these bans are currently in effect—some have later effective dates and some are the subject of litigation—all of these efforts are about control and power. At their core, abortion restrictions prevent people from making decisions about their own lives and futures.
The surge in attempts to ban abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy drives home that the end goal of antiabortion politicians and activists is to ban all abortion—at any point during pregnancy and for any reason—even as they shamelessly spin a false and inflammatory narrative about abortion later in pregnancy. Now, their real agenda—banning abortions before many people even know they’re pregnant—is there for everyone to see.