Skip to content

State policy changes intensify in wake of Supreme Court decision

Trigger laws took effect in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah

Friday's Supreme Court decision has spurred a number of state abortion "trigger laws" to go into effect.
Friday's Supreme Court decision has spurred a number of state abortion "trigger laws" to go into effect. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the hours after the Supreme Court signaled an end to the national right to abortion Friday, a cascade of abortion bans began to take effect across the country.

Trigger laws, meant to go into effect in the absence of the legal precedent established under the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, took effect in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

Ohio enacted its ban on abortions after six weeks, courtesy of a federal court judge who approved Attorney General Dave Yost’s request to lift a nearly three-year injunction on the state’s so-called heartbeat bill.

In less than a month, Texas, Idaho, North Dakota and Tennessee laws will make those states abortion deserts as well.

It’s just the beginning of the the state-led movement to ban abortion or, in some cases, to continue to protect access to the procedure.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, whose state’s 15-week ban was the subject of the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision Friday, certified the state trigger law Monday.

“As we proceed in this post-Roe world, the people of Mississippi and of all the states will be able to fully engage in the work of both empowering women and promoting life,” said Fitch. “The Supreme Court very clearly held in Dobbs that the appropriate standard for courts to use for challenges to state abortion laws is rational-basis review.”

Despite the court’s ruling, abortion rights advocates are still hoping to stop the closure of clinics in those states, and before other states plan to take action.

Planned Parenthood, for example, filed suit in Utah state court Saturday in an attempt to block the state ban on all abortions, which took effect Friday. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed suit against two Kentucky abortions laws Monday. The laws include a ban on all abortions and a ban on abortions after six weeks. 

On Monday, the Center for Reproductive Rights — which argued against the Mississippi law before the Supreme Court — filed a petition to block Louisiana’s trigger law. The court blocked implementation of the ban at the state’s three clinics ahead of a hearing set for July 8.

“A public health emergency is about to engulf the nation. As expected, Louisiana and many other states wasted no time enacting bans and eliminating abortion entirely,” said Nancy Northup, the center president and CEO. “We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and others were in court Monday arguing against implementation of Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, scheduled to take effect July 1.

Planned Parenthood sued Idaho on Monday to stop that state’s trigger law banning abortion. Abortion providers also challenged Texas’ pre-Roe ban.

It’s unclear if other lawsuits will be successful in even temporarily delaying state bans from taking effect. 

“I don’t underestimate the abortion lobby. I feel sure that there will be more challenges. They have an uphill battle,”  Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said Monday during remarks at an event hosted by The Washington Post. “I think there are a lot of other legal challenges, though, because state constitutions have their own makeup and several have put the right, so-called right to abortion, in their constitution.” 

Next steps

More changes to abortion laws are expected in the days and weeks ahead, making it difficult to navigate and plan ahead for patients and even providers.

North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, Red River Women’s Clinic, is raising money to move across the state line to Moorhead, Minn., to continue operations. As of Monday afternoon, the clinic had $669,000 toward its $1 million goal, according to their GoFundMe page.

South Carolina and Georgia are waiting for the court to signal they can implement bans on abortions after six weeks.

Wyoming’s trigger ban will take effect five days after the governor certifies the law.

Meanwhile, pre-Roe bans in West Virginia and Wisconsin can be enforced pending legal action.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has said he will call a special session for the state legislature if needed to clarify the law. It may be unnecessary: West Virginia’s only abortion clinic stopped performing abortions Friday.

In Kansas, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the right was protected under the state constitution, but voters face the choice in a referendum in August to change the constitution to declare abortion is not a protected right. 

Even states known for more liberal approaches to abortion policy have hinted at coming changes.

Virginia made national headlines in 2019 over a bill that would have loosened restrictions on abortions later in pregnancy.

In 2019, Virginia flipped both chambers of the state General Assembly, which advocates had hoped would lead to the implementation of more progressive abortion policies. Last year, the state elected Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who opposes abortion rights. Since the ruling, Youngkin has called on the General Assembly to pass a 15-week abortion ban when it meets in January. 

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, wants to let voters decide. While he does not support abortion, he said it should not lie with “a handful of elected officials or appointed judges, to decide the future of abortion in Alaska.” He plans to introduce a resolution for a proposed constitutional amendment in the next session to leave the decision to voters.

Recent Stories

Total eclipse of the Hart (and Russell buildings) — Congressional Hits and Misses

House plans to send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate on Tuesday

Harris sticks with Agriculture spending, Amodei likely to head DHS panel

Editor’s Note: What passes for normal in Congress

House approves surveillance authority reauthorization bill

White House rattles its saber with warnings to Iran, China about attacking US allies