Bills To Ban Abortion Gain Prominence Among State Conservatives

March 13, 2013 — In a shift from past decades, abortion-rights opponents have increasingly focused on state legislation banning abortion after certain points in pregnancy, ABC News reports.

Prior to 2010, no state had enacted a law to ban abortion outright at any stage in pregnancy, according to ABC News. However, Republican gains in state legislatures and governorships over the past three years have given conservatives the leverage to enact such measures.

Today, 10 states have passed measures outlawing all or most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Nebraska was the first to pass the 20-week legislation in April 2010, and Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma followed suit in 2011. In 2012, Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana passed similar legislation. Most recently, Arkansas passed a bill that bans most abortions after 12 weeks.

In five of the nine states that passed abortion bans since the November 2010 election (Nebraska's law was passed before the election), Republicans took leadership of the governorship, state House and state Senate at that time.

More recently, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) rejected the 12-week ban, but the GOP-controlled Legislature overrode his veto. Meanwhile, Republicans in North Dakota have bolstered their majorities in the House and Senate, just as the state considers a new abortion ban.

Legal Disputes

Some abortion-rights opponents view the measures as a means of launching a challenge to Roe v. Wade, under which states cannot ban abortion before viability. Last week, a federal judge cited that standard in striking down the Idaho law. Abortion-rights supporters also have challenged the Arizona and Georgia laws, and they are planning a case against the Arkansas measure.

John Culhane, a law professor at Widener University, noted, "It's pretty clear from the most recent of the big Supreme Court cases [on abortion] ... that no outright ban can be placed before viability" (Good, ABC News, 3/12).