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The End of Roe? Red States Prepare To Enact Abortion Restrictions

Florida, West Virginia, and Arizona to sign 15-week abortion bans into law

Anti-abortion protesters in front of the Supreme Court. (Getty Images)
• February 17, 2022 2:05 pm

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Lawmakers in red states this week passed sweeping abortion restrictions, a move pro-life advocates say anticipates the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Florida House of Representatives passed a 15-week abortion ban Wednesday, one day after lawmakers in West Virginia and Arizona passed near-identical bills. The 15-week threshold mimics that of the Mississippi law up for debate at the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Each state has passed the ban in at least one chamber and appears set to sign it into law in the coming weeks.

Susan Liebel, state director of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said the bans show legislators in these states "have an expectation that the Supreme Court's decision will, at a minimum, uphold a ban on abortion after 15 weeks."

"An overwhelming majority of Americans reject abortion extremism and support these common-sense limits," Liebel told the Washington Free Beacon. "We have great hope that all states will soon be able to enact the consensus of their people, while the pro-life movement continues striving for the day when all children and their mothers are protected in our laws."

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe this year, states would be free to restrict abortion prior to fetal viability, which is considered roughly 24 weeks. Even a partial overhaul of Roe could still alter the definition of fetal viability to uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban. By defining viability at 15 weeks, the Court could keep Roe intact while still upholding the Mississippi law.

Republican-led states are prepared for either scenario. A dozen states have "trigger bans" in place that outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. Another five states have pre-Roe bans that would be reenacted if the decision is overturned.

Polling data show 65 percent of Americans believe abortion should usually be illegal in the second trimester, which begins at 14 weeks. At 15 weeks, fetuses have all their major organs and can respond to taste and touch. Recent research shows fetuses can feel pain as early as 12 weeks.

Florida, even after its sharp red turn in recent election cycles, has remained one of the top states for late-term abortions, with nearly a thousand after 20 weeks in 2019. In 2020, the state had more than 3,000 abortions past 15 weeks, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Republicans in at least nine states, including Florida, have proposed six-week abortion bans that mimic Texas's civilian-enforced law that led to a 60 percent drop in abortions in its first month. Two additional states proposed trigger bans, although none of these bills have been advanced.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said the passage of 15-week bans and the introduction of more aggressive restrictions show a "tremendous amount of excitement among the pro-life grassroots" ahead of the Dobbs decision.

"After five decades, a lot of frustration has built up among the American people and their elected representatives precisely because Roe robbed them of their say in protecting vulnerable life in their state," Mancini told the Free Beacon.

The Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs is expected later this year.

Published under: Roe v. Wade