Monday, April 17, 2006

What would the U.S. look like post-Roe?

Interesting article in the USA Today about how different states would react to the overturn of Roe vs. Wade.


'Roe v. Wade': The divided states of America
By Susan Page, USA TODAY

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two hours after South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed an abortion ban last month, NARAL Pro-Choice America blasted an e-mail to its supporters: "Is your state next?"

The South Dakota legislation and the abortion rights group's warning are early skirmishes in a battle over what states would do if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision were overturned — though both sides concede that may never happen.

If it does, a fight that for three decades has focused on nine members of the Supreme Court would be waged instead among more than 7,000 legislators in 50 state capitals.

"Now is the time to get moving on this in Ohio," says Tom Brinkman, a state legislator who has introduced a bill to ban almost all abortions. Meanwhile, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is braced. "Our supporters feel the fight is coming back to the states," she says.

What would states do?

Ultimately, that would depend on factors ranging from who was governor to where public opinion stood. Even so, there are clues from what state legislatures have chosen to do already and what they're considering doing next.

For instance, four states have passed "trigger" bans on abortion that would go into effect immediately if Roe were reversed. Six other states have passed laws that would automatically protect access to abortion. Three states have enacted all 11 of the current restrictions on abortion tracked by the non-profit Alan Guttmacher Institute, from requiring waiting periods to limiting abortion coverage in insurance plans. One state, Vermont, hasn't passed any restriction.

USA TODAY used the Guttmacher data and other factors to calculate how states would be likely to respond if Roe were reversed. The 1973 decision recognized access to abortion as part of a constitutional right to privacy and limited states' ability to restrict it.

The conclusions:

Twenty-two state legislatures are likely to impose significant new restrictions on abortion. They include nearly every state in the South and a swath of big states across the industrial Rust Belt, from Pennsylvania to Ohio and Michigan. These states have enacted most of the abortion restrictions now allowed.

Nine states are considering bans similar to the one passed in South Dakota — it's scheduled to go into effect July 1 — and four states are debating restrictions that would be triggered if the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Sixteen state legislatures are likely to continue current access to abortion. They include every state on the West Coast and almost every state in the Northeast. A half-dozen already have passed laws that specifically protect abortion rights. Most of the states in this group have enacted fewer than half of the abortion restrictions now available to states.

Twelve states fall into a middle ground between those two categories. About half are in the Midwest, the rest scattered from Arizona to Rhode Island.

The result, according to this analysis, would be less a patchwork of laws than broad regional divisions that generally reinforce the nation's political split. All but three of the states likely to significantly restrict abortions voted for President Bush in 2004. All but four of the states likely to maintain access to abortion voted for Democrat John Kerry.

The 22 states likely to enact new restrictions include 50% of the U.S. population and accounted for 37% of the abortions performed in 2000, the latest year for which complete data were available.

The 16 states likely to protect access to abortion include 35% of the U.S. population and accounted for 48% of the abortions performed.

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