Delaware Legislature Protects Abortion Rights Against Attacks on ‘Roe’ (Updated)

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Delaware Legislature Protects Abortion Rights Against Attacks on ‘Roe’ (Updated)

Teddy Wilson

The Democratic-backed bill ensures abortion will remain legal in Delaware even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

UPDATE, June 9, 1:36 p.m.: Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) on Thursday signed SB 5, which repeals the state’s unconstitutional and unenforceable abortion ban. The new law takes effect immediately.

Lawmakers in the Delaware State House on Tuesday gave final approval to repeal restrictions on abortion care and protect reproductive rights. 

The bill will undo Delaware’s unenforceable law banning abortion care with exceptions for the life of the pregnant person, fetal abnormalities, and rape or incest.

SB 5, sponsored by state Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark), would codify the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized the medical procedure.

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Delaware is one of 11 states that still have pre-Roe laws on the books banning abortion. Four other states have passed “trigger laws” that would automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Supporters of SB 5 said the bill is necessary to prepare for the possibility that President Trump appoints another conservative justice, shifting the balance of power on the Court and putting the Roe v. Wade decision in peril.

The bill repeals other restrictions on abortion. The state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be repealed and replaced with a ban on abortion after viability, defined as the point in a pregnancy when a doctor reaches a “good faith medical judgment” that a fetus could likely survive without “extraordinary medical measures.”

The bill would also repeal the forced 24-hour waiting period prior to having an abortion, the state-mandated counseling prior to the procedure, and the requirement that a parent or guardian give consent for a pregnant minor to receive abortion care. 

GOP lawmakers offered amendments to the bill, including a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and a requirement for the person seeking an abortion to receive counseling. The Republican amendments were blocked by Democrats.

The bill was passed by the house in a 22-16 vote; it cleared the state senate in May in an 11-7 vote. The measure now heads to Gov. John Carney (D), who has announced he plans to sign the bill.