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Roundups Law and Policy

Pro-Choice Laws Are Winning in These States (Updated)

Dennis Carter

A spate of pro-choice bills repealing abortion restrictions and shoring up abortion rights against the U.S. Supreme Court are advancing in legislatures across the country.

Editor’s Note: This story will be updated as news around the laws progresses. Last updated June 12 at 4:33 p.m.

A conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court has sparked dual state-level reactions: While Republican-held legislatures challenge abortion as a constitutional right, Democratic-majority legislatures have protected and expanded abortion rights.

This year’s concerted efforts to safeguard abortion rights and undo anti-choice restrictions that have been implemented at breakneck speed over the past decade haven’t drawn the same public attention as the recently passed near-total abortion bans meant to challenge Roe v. Wade. But it’s these pro-choice measures that could create abortion care oases if legal abortion ends in states with GOP-dominated legislatures.

Abortion rights advocates have taken heart in some states proactively guarding abortion against a Supreme Court majority hostile to reproductive rights, even as some states with Democratic majorities struggle to shepherd through pro-choice legislation. Here’s a rundown of the legislation that—alongside the state-level near-total abortion bans—is creating an abortion rights bifurcation in the United States.

Nevada

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) on June 7 signed the Trust Nevada Women Act into law, the Associated Press reports. The law repeals medically unnecessary laws regulating abortion care and does away with a law criminalizing abortion 24 weeks into pregnancy.

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The Trust Nevada Women Act (SB 179) passed the state assembly in May without a single Republican vote, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. The Democratic-majority state senate then passed the bill, sending it to Sisolak’s desk.

The legislation gets rid of a law requiring abortion patients to undergo “informed written consent” emphasizing anti-choice propaganda about the “physical and emotional implications of having the abortion.” The bill also eliminates the requirement that doctors must “certify a pregnant woman’s marital status and age before performing an abortion.”

People seeking abortion care, meanwhile, are less conflicted about their decision than those considering knee surgery. More than 8 in 10 people in Nevada support legal abortion, while another two thirds back the repeal of laws criminalizing abortion care, according to Public Policy Polling commissioned by NARAL, as reported by the Nevada Independent in February.

“The Trust Nevada Women Act is a crucial piece of legislation that will bring Nevada’s laws in line with Nevadans’ values,” Caroline Mello Roberson, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada state director, said in a statement. “We know that Nevadans are overwhelmingly pro-choice and the [Trust Nevada Women Act] will finally ensure these values are reflected in state law.”

Illinois

With supermajorities in both legislative chambers and the governorship, Illinois Democrats this year passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which repeals a 1975 law with criminal penalties for physicians who offer abortion care. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the pro-choice legislation on June 12. 

The legislation requires insurance coverage for abortion services and contraception, and allows advanced practice nurses and clinicians to provide in-clinic abortions, expanding the number of health-care professionals who could provide abortions as people travel to Illinois for abortion care. 

Illinois as of 2014 had 40 abortion care clinics, whereas neighboring Missouri could have zero standalone abortion clinics in the coming weeks. 

In January, Pritzker signed an executive order ensuring state government workers’ insurance plans and Medicaid plans cover abortion care, as made law in a measure signed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Pritzker has suggested that under his leadership, Illinois “will be the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to guaranteeing women’s reproductive rights.”

Maine

The end of Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) administration in Maine has led to a host of pro-choice measures pushed by legislative Democrats and Gov. Janet Mills (D).

Mills on June 10 signed legislation that would nix a ban on non-physicians providing abortion care. The law will allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse-midwives to provide abortion services in the state—a change that could bolster access to abortion care for those who live in rural Maine. Alison Bates, a nurse practitioner in Maine with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told Rewire.News in March that 80 percent of Maine’s counties don’t have an abortion provider today. 

The law will go into effect in September.

Both Maine’s state senate and house passed legislation this month requiring MaineCare, the state Medicaid program, and private insurance plans that provide maternity care to also cover abortion services. Maine would become the 16th state to require Medicaid to include abortion care, according to the Press Herald.

Vermont

Pro-choice legislators in Vermont are shoring up abortion rights with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive liberty in the state, along with a bill codifying the right to an abortion and prohibiting public entities from interfering with a person’s right to abortion care. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) on June 10 signed the codification legislation into law. 

The constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 5, requires votes in the legislature during the next session before it can appear on the ballot in November 2022. 

The legislation would ensure people in Vermont have unrestricted access to abortion services even if conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe. Vermont doesn’t have any restrictions on abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Washington 

After Democratic lawmakers in Washington state squabbled over providing reproductive health care to undocumented people, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) in late April signed the Reproductive Health Access for All Act. The final version of the legislation included anti-discrimination protections for transgender and non-binary people and expanded reproductive health coverage to include cancer screenings and birth control for everyoneexcept undocumented immigrants. House Democrats had removed the statute about undocumented people. 

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington said on its website that the organization was “incredibly disappointed to see House Democratic Leadership hide immigrant communities in the shadows instead of protecting them in statute.”

More than 10,000 women in Washington state live in a county without a health center providing a full range of contraceptive methods, according to Power to Decide, an organization raising awareness about contraception access.

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