By Staff Writer Susanne Prochazka.
The ripple effect of the Texas abortion ban, SB 8, has already impacted reproductive rights across the United States. As early as September 2021, following SB 8 taking effect, states neighboring Texas experienced an influx of patients seeking abortion care and related reproductive health care. States as far away as Illinois and New York reported an increase in patients from Texas scheduling abortion procedures, with Texans forced to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles for abortion access. Under SB 8, which effectively bans abortions as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, abortions in Texas have already fallen by almost 50%.
In the wake of Texas’ SB 8, a wave of equally restrictive abortion prohibitions has followed. 2022 is rapidly emerging as a devastating year for abortion rights and access, with more than 500 restrictions introduced nationwide since the start of state legislative sessions in January 2022.
Notably, three states have enacted bans as strict as Texas’ SB 8 in 2022: Florida signed into law a 15-week abortion ban that will go into effect in July; Kentucky’s state legislature overrode the governor’s veto to enact a 15-week ban; and Oklahoma signed into law a total abortion ban that goes into effect in August.
Both the Florida and Kentucky laws are similar to the Mississippi abortion ban at issue in the case being considered by the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for this case in December 2021; its pending decision in this case has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and impose great challenges on abortion access and abortion care in the US. Many state legislatures are taking advantage of this current uncertainty and enacting draconian abortion bans in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs.
Florida’s new 15-week ban, HB 5, replaces an older Florida law that allowed abortions until 24 weeks of pregnancy. HB5 does not permit exceptions for cases of incest, rape, or human trafficking, but does include exceptions that permit abortion where an abortion would save the life of the pregnant person or in the case of severe fetal abnormalities discovered after the 15-week mark. Similarly, Kentucky’s new law, HB 3, which is already in effect, also imposes a 15-week abortion ban, along with strict restrictions on doctors’ abilities to perform medical or nonsurgical abortions, making it essentially impossible for abortion providers to meet this requirements and forcing the last two abortion clinics in Louisville, Kentucky to close.
Claiming that he wants “Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country,” Oklahoma’s governor signed into effect a law that makes performing an abortion a felony. Anyone convicted of performing an abortion in violation of this law can face a fine up to $100,000 and 10 years in prison. While the law, SB-612, does provide an exception if the pregnant person’s life is in danger, there are no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Unless blocked by the courts, SB-612 goes into effect in the summer of 2022, becoming one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the country.
Encouraged by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court’s expected overturning of Roe, states such as Florida, Kentucky and Oklahoma have proactively restricted abortion access in preparation for that possibility. If restrictive laws such as these continue to stand, those seeking abortions from these states will have to seek the procedures further and further afield at clinics that are already maxed out on resources and appointments.