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Abortion is Legal in All 50 States, and We Intend to Keep It That Way

Abortion rights protesters
Alabama is just the latest example win in the fight to keep abortion accessible.
Abortion rights protesters
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas,
Deputy Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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October 31, 2019

On Tuesday, a federal court issued a decision in our challenge to Alabama’s near-total ban on abortion blocking the law from taking effect. The decision comes on the heels of similar rulings blocking abortion bans in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah. In other words, the ACLU has an undefeated, 7-0 record challenging state abortion bans in court. None of the state abortion bans passed earlier this year will be permitted to take effect. Abortion is – and will remain – legal in all 50 states.

The Alabama ban, like all the others, is the anti-abortion movement’s true agenda on full display—ban abortion, punish women, jail doctors, and shame people seeking care. The politicians who pass these bans are part of a concerted, national effort to unravel access to abortion and ultimately the legal right to it. Despite strong public support for safe, supported abortion care, these politicians hope that the balance of the Supreme Court has turned against abortion rights with enough votes to aggressively and systematically dismantle abortion access.

Not on our watch.

The bans, however, are by no means the only threat to abortion access in this country. We cannot lose sight of the fact that politicians can effectively outlaw abortion for thousands of people without having to overturn Roe v. Wade. Take Louisiana, for example, where the Supreme Court is considering a law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital – a law virtually identical to the one the Supreme Court already struck down in 2016 in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. If the Court allows the Louisiana law to take effect, it would shutter all the clinics in the state except for one.

ICYMI: None of the state abortion bans passed earlier this year have gone into effect. #StopTheBans
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Indeed, across the country, politicians have created a web of medically unnecessary, politically-motivated restrictions that push abortion care out of reach for many, but particularly for low-income people, young people, and people of color. Since 2011, state legislators across the country have passed 479 such restrictions, leaving increasingly vast areas of our country with few or no abortion providers at all. Today, there is only one clinic left standing in Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia. These restrictions, whether they ban certain methods, require a patient have multiple visits, or require clinics to set up hospital-like facilities, have nothing to do with women’s health or safe care and everything to do with making abortion nearly impossible to obtain.

Whether it’s an outright ban or a more subtle attempt to push abortion out of reach, my colleagues and I will continue taking these states to court to make sure that abortion care with dignity and respect remains available to all.

But let’s not stop there. Alabama has the second-highest infant mortality in the country. Georgia, another state that passed a law banning abortion, has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. If legislators in these states really cared about women, children, and families, they would address those life-threatening issues, not try to pass laws that force people to remain pregnant against their will.

Legal victories are critical and important, but justice requires more. Instead of criminalizing health care, interfering with personal decisions, and substituting political agendas for the expertise of health care professionals, our politicians should be doing everything they can to ensure people can have healthy pregnancies and healthy deliveries, to ensure that people can raise their families in safe communities, without fear of violence, wanting for food or shelter, access to childcare, jobs, and education. That would be more than a victory—it would be justice.