Republicans seek to criminalize abortion pills and family planning

The first “fetal heartbeat” law — banning abortion during what at the time was blatantly, almost ridiculously unconstitutional — was proposed 26 times before finding a state legislature willing to push it forward. Enacted in North Dakota in 2013, the ban was quickly overturned by the Supreme Court. But in the years that followed, more and more states began to warm to the idea of ​​banning abortion much sooner than previously imagined. Much more.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade As of Friday, 12 states had passed laws banning abortion at 6 weeks. Five states had passed near-total bans on abortion at any time during pregnancy. Thirteen had ‘trigger bans’ on the books that would automatically go into effect banning abortion if and when the Supreme Court overturns roe deer. Several states had all three. Many, if not most, of these laws were drafted by organizations like Americans United for Life.

For decades, Americans United For Life has worked quietly, diligently, and incrementally: drafting model legislation (including those six-week heartbeat bills), coaching Republican lawmakers on how to do it. make progress in their home country and help defend the legislation when it is inevitably challenged in court. A 2019 investigation found that AUL was responsible for the vast majority of the roughly 400 anti-abortion bills introduced in 41 states.

Their project was a resounding success: On Friday, some states had so many layers of conflicting previously unenforceable laws on the books that some abortion clinics suspended operations the moment the news broke, turning away patients for fear of finding themselves on the wrong side. of these laws.

If there’s a moral to this story, perhaps it’s to take on the anti-choice groups that have worked for decades to help overthrow Roe vs. Wade at their word. And in the words of AUL President Catherine Glenn Foster on Friday, their work has “really begun.”

During a Heritage Foundation panel on “Life After Roe” last week, Clarke Forsythe, senior attorney for Americans United for Life, raised the possibility of a constitutional amendment banning the procedure nationwide. To that, Forsythe thoughtfully said, “We’re going to have to secure 38 states. (Vice President Mike Pence and Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, with whom Pence is believed to have close ties, both called for a similar nationwide ban on Friday.)

Forsythe was also optimistic about the idea of ​​further restricting medical abortions, whether at the state or federal level. “States have worked over the past decade to limit chemical abortions in several ways,” Forsythe said. “But it’s also within the power of Congress, expressly in the Constitution, to pass a federal law about it.” And at the first possible opportunity, Congress should pass a federal law.

A day before the Heritage Foundation event, the National Committee for the Right to Life, the nation’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, released its own “Roadmap for the Right to Life Movement. life” after Roe – to “protect… mothers”. and their children from the tragedy of abortion.

The 29-page model law represents a dramatic escalation of many tactics already embedded by anti-abortion groups. It proposes a total ban on abortion nationwide with no exceptions other than preventing the death of the mother. It would ban the prescription and distribution of mifepristone and misoprostol, the two-step abortion pill protocol (“trafficking in abortifacients”), and it would criminalize anyone who could give “instructions over the phone, the Internet or any other means of communication regarding self-administered abortions or ways to obtain an illegal abortion”.

Many of the provisions seem ridiculously, blatantly unconstitutional – “Oh, they’re just going to criminalize free speech?” — like those “fetal heartbeat” laws did a decade ago.

Lawyers who work in the area of ​​reproductive rights take them seriously. “I can’t overstate how extreme this bill is,” said ACLU senior policy adviser Jessica Arons. rolling stone. “It’s a complete ban on abortion regardless of the patient’s health. There is only one extremely limited lifespan exception – a patient would essentially have to be dying on the table for doctors to intervene, and by then it could very well be too late.

Like Texas abortion premium law, SB 8, the National Right to Life Coalition law promotes the use of civil lawsuits to discourage abortions. There is a narrower range of individuals who would be eligible to sue under the bill, but includes friends and family as well as the fetus’s biological father, Arons says, “with no exception in cases of rape. or other sexual violence or intimate partner violence, so it’s something that can easily be used as a tool to aggravate abuse in an abusive relationship.It’s just a starting point…The Effect deterrent of this type of prohibition would be considerable.

Under the law, organizations like Planned Parenthood could be treated as criminal syndicates. “The entire criminal enterprise must be dealt with to effectively prevent criminal activity, which is why RICO-type laws have been enacted to provide effective remedies against the entire criminal enterprise,” explains an introduction to model law. “This illegal abortion industry will be well funded and well organized, operating as an illegal abortion business that will need to be shut down to prevent illegal abortions from occurring.”)

Already, some states, like Missouri, have considered making it a crime to help someone travel out of state to get an abortion. The National Right to Life Coalition’s proposed law would extend that logic one step further, threatening providers, Arons says, “who are acting lawfully under their own national laws.”

On Friday, Julie Rikelman, senior director of US litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the attorney who argued Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization before the Supreme Court, says rolling stone“The reality is that we are going to see some of these laws enacted, and they will be challenged, but the ultimate constitutionality of these laws will ultimately be decided through litigation in court.”

In other words: the laws cannot be as extreme as the Supreme Court is. And with this Supreme Court, that’s not a very comforting thought.

“The National Committee for Life Rights and the American United Life Organizations who have regularly issued model legislation in which they continue to float these trial balloons to see how far they can get away with it,” said Arons said. “Over time, they normalize their extreme ideas. And they have a captive audience of lawmakers who are willing to run these tests for them, push the envelope and try to get legislation passed, and see what the courts will uphold.

“That’s their roadmap,” Arons says. “They’re emboldened, they’re not trying to hide it.”

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