LOCALIZE IT: How abortion ruling will impact states

·6-min read
APTOPIX Supreme Court Abortion (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
APTOPIX Supreme Court Abortion (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:

The Supreme Court has overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S. The ruling now means abortion access will vary greatly depending on where in the United States you live.

Friday’s decision eliminates the constitutional right to abortion and leaves it to states to decide rules governing access to the procedure.

It’s expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states, and puts the high court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored abortion being legal in most or all cases.

Here are some background details and potential questions you can use in reporting on abortion in your state. A summary of all 50 states’ abortion laws compiled by the AP can be found here: https://apnews.com/article/supreme-court-abortion-ruling-states-a767801145ad01617100e57410a0a21d.

LOCALIZATION TIPS

— Reach out to reproductive rights groups, health care workers, scholars, anti-abortion advocacy organizations and legislative leaders who determine what bills limiting or expanding abortion access advance in your state legislature.

— Talk to women who have had abortions or those who will be the most directly affected by strict limitations or an expansion of abortion access to get a sense of the real-world impacts of the laws in your state.

— Ask abortion providers and law enforcement if they’re preparing for any increase in violence in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling. In states where abortion remains legal, ask if they anticipate protests, harassment and other violence to be more concentrated and intense.

— In states with abortion bans that will take effect after the Supreme Court ruling, ask whether exceptions exist for rape or incest and what resources are available for women who would no longer have access to abortion services.

— In states seeking to maintain abortion access, ask how access is codified and whether it could be subject to challenge in the future.

— In states where future access is an open question, ask lawmakers on both sides what legislation they plan to introduce and whether legal action is anticipated.

— In states with conservative legislatures that have left-leaning cities, ask your local district attorneys how they plan to enforce abortion bans. Also ask the attorney general’s office if it plans to intervene if local prosecutors choose not to enforce bans.

— State and local health departments can provide data on the number of abortions performed over the years and how that has changed. It also is worth asking how the number of abortion clinics in the state has changed over the years.

— With this decision, minority women will be disproportionately affected by increased restrictions, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press in February. The AP story can be found here: https://apnews.com/article/abortion-us-supreme-court-business-health-race-and-ethnicity-3fff455cce7ef0d8694f5371f805ea18

— State and local health departments should have additional statistics.

STATE LAW OVERVIEW

A total of 22 states already had laws on the books banning abortion completely or very early in a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that is pro-abortion rights but generally has the most up-to-date legislative data.

The laws generally fall into three basic categories: unenforced abortion bans passed before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973; bans that had been passed but blocked in court under Roe; and so-called trigger bans that were designed to take effect automatically once Roe was overturned.

At least eight states passed anti-abortion restrictions this year: Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some of those laws have no exceptions for rape or incest.

At least two states, Michigan and Wisconsin, have state laws banning abortion that were passed before Roe and could take effect now that the decision has been overturned. While a judge suspended Michigan’s long-dormant ban on the procedure, an appeals court has since scheduled a hearing in July so abortion opponents can attempt to overturn that decision.

Several states have overlapping laws. Here is an overview of abortion bans from the Guttmacher Institute: https://bityl.co/C3sp.

Sixteen states have placed protections for abortion access in state law, though they do take slightly different forms. An overview of those laws can be found here: https://bityl.co/C3sw.

At least eight states have moved to strengthen existing protections or expand abortion access this year: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington.

STYLE TIPS

— Take care in describing positions on the issue: The AP Stylebook recommends using the modifiers anti-abortion or abortion-rights. Don’t use pro-life, pro-choice or pro-abortion unless they are in quotes or proper names. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.

— Further on style, phrasing such as pregnant people or people who seek an abortion seeks to include people who have those experiences but do not identify as women, such as some transgender men and some nonbinary people. Such phrasing should be confined to stories that specifically address the experiences of people who do not identify as women.

PUBLISHABLE CONTEXT

To help your readers further understand the abortion struggle going on across the country, the following paragraphs can be used:

Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, the country will be divided into states that allow the procedure and those that ban or greatly restrict it.

Supporters of anti-abortion laws want to reduce the number of women who seek the procedure and discourage them from going to other states. At least 276,000 women terminated their pregnancies outside their home state between 2012 and 2017, according to a 2019 Associated Press analysis of data collected from state reports and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is particularly true in pockets of the Midwest, South and Mountain West, where the number of women terminating a pregnancy in another state has increased because of a lack of nearby clinics or a desire to travel to a state with less restrictive abortion laws.

When Texas enacted a ban that prohibited the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, the Oklahoma State Department of Health began reporting a dramatic increase in women crossing the border to get an abortion. Before the Texas ban took effect last year, about 40 women from Texas had abortions performed in Oklahoma each month. That number jumped to 222 Texas women in September and 243 in October, the agency reported.

Oklahoma has since banned abortion at conception — currently the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation — which effectively ended availability of the procedure before the Supreme Court justices overturned Roe.

About 630,000 abortions were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, the latest data available, although information from some states is missing.

More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The trend has spiked during the pandemic with the help of telemedicine. In 2020, pills accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions, up from roughly 44% in 2019.

Americans have nuanced attitudes on the topic. In an AP-NORC poll conducted last June, 61% said abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances in the first trimester of a pregnancy. However, 65% said abortion should usually be illegal in the second trimester and 80% said that about the third trimester. Many Americans said the procedure should be allowable under at least some circumstances even during the second or third trimesters.

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Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for its customers’ use. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at koyan@ap.org.

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