Hours after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down the landmark Roe Vs. Wade ruling, green lighting the way for lawmakers to prohibit abortion, several states, most of them Republican-led, have taken quick steps to do so.
SCOTUS has brought 13 states in the US into focus who have "trigger" laws on the issue of abortion rights. Three states -- Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota -- have so-called "trigger bans" that went into effect automatically with the Supreme Court's reversal of the Roe Vs. Wade. Missouri, another trigger-ban state, has already made the move required to implement its ban on abortion, with state Attorney General Eric Schmitt announcing Friday that he had taken the step of certification laid out by Missouri law. Oklahoma, too, has also taken the step of implementing its trigger ban.
The court scrapped this 1973 ruling, in a victory for the conservative wing of American politics. While the ruling was expected, with a draft version of the same leaked in May, SCOTUS is facing widespread criticism from the government, including from US President Joe Biden and global civil society leaders.
What Are Trigger Laws?
In simple terms, trigger laws are bans and statutes which are not enforceable when passed but designed in a way to automatically get 'triggered' i.e go into effect in case of a change in circumstance. In this case - the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade
When Roe Vs Wade was still in place, access to abortion was a federally protected right, making these trigger laws not applicable in US states that had them. But with the protection offered by Roe Vs Wade overturned, states in the United States of America which have abortion related trigger laws in place, can now make the laws enforceable. Several legal and civil rights experts have in the past called abortion related trigger laws, as a way for the US states to, "allow women to exercise their constitutional rights, but under protest."
In some states, a simple overturning or Roe Vs Wade immediately snaps back state-level abortion bans while in other states it will take 30 days, after a certification by the decreed official.
There are currently 13 states with trigger laws, shows research by the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit advocating for sexual and reproductive freedom with three of them already being in force. The remaining ten states are likely to enforce their laws over a period of time.
Alongside these 13 states, there are 13 other states where abortion is likely to be banned, either due to an existing pre-Roe Vs. Wade ban or because they have been laying the groundwork for a more comprehensive ban.
Below are the 13 states that have trigger laws make term abortion automatically or instantaneously an illegal and punishable act.
1. Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota (immediate)
While Kentucky enacted its trigger law in 2019, Louisiana's and South Dakota's laws go back to 2006 and 2005 respectively.
These laws need to no further action to be triggered and abortion is now banned immediately.
In Louisiana those found in violation can be fined or be imprisoned for ten years in prison in Louisiana.
In Kentucky and South Dakota, abortion is now a felony.
Exceptions - These states provide exceptions to abortions in cases where it is needed to save a pregnant person's life and in Kentucky if medical treatment accidentally terminates a pregnancy.
2. Idaho, Tennessee and Texas (30 days)
While Idaho's law was enacted in 2020, Texas' and Tennessee's were enacted in 2019.
These laws are slated to go into effect 30 days after the scrapping of Roe Vs. Wade without any further action.
Idaho - Those who conduct an act of abortion including those attempting to provide one, will be charged with felony with a jail term of two to five years. The law further states that if abortion is performed by a medical professional, their license will be suspended for six months (or more) for a first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.
Tenessee and Texas - Violators would be charged with felonies.
Texas law also states a fine of at least $100,000 for each violation.
Exceptions - Health concerns for the pregnant person or in reported cases of rape or incest (the latter only in Idaho).
3. Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma (Certification by the Attorney General)
The ban of abortions in these states will kick in once the Attorney Generals - the highest legal advisor to the government (who may head some law enforcement) - certifies that Roe Vs. Wade has been abrogated.
Arkansas - Imprisonment for up to ten years, or fined up to $100,000, or both.
Mississippi will face jail terms up to ten years.
Missouri - Licenses of those providing abortion to be suspend or revoked.
Oklahoma - Imprisonment of two to five years.
Again, all states provide exceptions for dangers to the pregnant person.
4. Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota (certification by the executive or legislature)
Wyoming's law is quite recent - it was passed in 2022. Utah's law dates back to 2020, while North Dakota's to 2007.
In North Dakota, the Legislative Council - a legislative service agency - needs to approve a recommendation from the Attorney General that the abortion ban is constitutional. Offenders in the state will be charged with a felony. Similarly, in Utah, the Legislative General Council must approve the Attorney General's recommendation on an abortion ban.
Both states make abortion a felony.
In Wyoming, the Governor of the state needs to certify the trigger law on the advise of the Attorney General, within 30 days of Roe Vs. Wade going away.
Once passed, Wyoming makes abortion a crime with imprisonment of up to 14 years in prison.
The usual exceptions of health risks to the mother apply, with all three states also making exceptions for rape and incest.
The other 13 states
Several other states have pre-Roe Vs. Wade bans. It means that they banned abortion prior to the Roe Vs. Wade judgement, but never explicitly repealed these laws once the effects of the judgment was in place as they had already been superseded.
These states are Alabama, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Several states with trigger bans also have pre-Roe Vs. Wade bans on abortion.
In Ohio, Georgia, Iowa and South Carolina, there are abortion bans beyond a time period, usually six-weeks.
Four states: Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska do not have existing bans, but restrict abortions and have been building up restrictions, with the research showing that a comprehensive ban is likely.
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