The first six months of the year saw relentless attacks on abortion rights on the state level. Five states passed bills banning the procedure after six weeks, before many women even realize they’re pregnant. And in May, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed a near-full ban on the procedure. The same month, Missouri — a state with only one abortion clinic — passed an extreme eight-week ban that didn’t include any exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or human trafficking. In all, seven states have passed similarly stringent laws in 2019, and more are considering them.
But in recent months, judges in many of these states have started to issue preliminary injunctions, which allow patients to continue accessing important reproductive care while the court hears the case in full to determine whether or not the bill is constitutional. In short, these court orders — also known as temporary blocks — maintain the status quo, allowing abortion to remain legal. Most recently, on August 27, a federal judge temporarily blocked Missouri’s ban.
The fight doesn’t end here, though. Planned Parenthood director of state advocacy media Bonyen Lee-Gilmore says now is not the time to “rest easy,” as states are expected to appeal to circuit courts. Under Trump, these courts have become increasingly hostile to reproductive rights.
“Trump has appointed over 100 judges to the federal bench, and we’re seeing circuit courts become more and more anti-abortion,” Lee-Glimore told the Cut. “This is no coincidence. Trump is remaking the judicial branch in order to push these unconstitutional laws forward, and we’re seeing these judges stare Supreme Court precedent in the face and create new rules.”
Here’s what’s become of all the extreme bans this year so far.
Status: The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have filed a lawsuit.
On May 15, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that was so restrictive, even Republicans were divided over it: a near-full ban on the procedure with no exceptions for rape or incest. It would also make performing the procedure a felony in most instances. (The bill does include exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.)
As promised, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and Planned Parenthood Federation of America swiftly filed a lawsuit to block the Alabama the law, which is scheduled to go into effect in November. While a judge hasn’t ruled on the case yet, attorneys for the state have indicated that they’d be willing put a temporary restraining order on the law until May 2020, while the state and the reproductive-rights organizations suing it resolve the lawsuit.
Status: The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a lawsuit.
On June 28, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, which only contains a few narrow exceptions, including cases where the woman’s life is endangered, the pregnancy is considered “medically futile,” and in instances of rape or incest if the woman files a police report. While the law is scheduled to take effect in January 2020, Julie Rikelman, the litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Cut that the court has a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for September 23 to decide whether to temporarily block the ban.
Status: Temporarily blocked.
On March 15, Kentucky became one of the first states of the year to sign into law its six-week abortion ban, which was scheduled to go into effect immediately, per the New York Times. (The bill includes exceptions when the woman’s life is endangered, but not in cases of rape or incest.) That same day, though, ACLU filed an immediate challenge, and Judge David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky temporarily blocked the law on grounds that it was potentially unconstitutional.
Status: Will only go into effect if Mississippi’s is upheld in a federal appeals court.
On May 30, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards signed a law banning nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape or incest. (It’s worth noting that the bill was both sponsored and signed into law by Democrats.) However, the ban will only take effect if a federal appeals court upholds Mississippi’s similar ban.
Status: Temporarily blocked; the attorney general has appealed.
On May 21, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed into law a six-week ban; just days later, Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a preliminary injunction against it, writing in his ruling that the law “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights.”
“[The ban] prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy,” he continued in his ruling, which he issued on May 24. “This injury outweighs any interest the state might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.”
Status: Temporarily blocked.
On August 27, one day before Missouri’s restrictive ban was scheduled to take effect, U.S. District Court judge Howard Sachs temporarily blocked the ban, NBC News reports. In his order, he wrote that the law seemed “designed … as a protest against Supreme Court decisions.”
Had Missouri’s law gone into effect, it would’ve banned abortion after eight weeks with with no exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or human trafficking. (It would, however, allow for exceptions in cases of medical emergency). Furthermore, doctors who would’ve performed the procedure under the law would’ve faced up to 15 years in prison.
Status: Temporarily blocked.
On July 3, Judge Michael Barrett temporarily blocked the six-week ban that Governor Mike DeWine had signed into law in early April. “This court concludes that [the bill] places an ‘undue burden’ on a woman’s right to choose a pre-viability abortion,” Barrett wrote in his injunction order. “The law is well settled that women possess a fundamental constitutional right of access to abortion.”