OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion. The June 24 ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
In anticipation of the decision, several states led by Democrats have taken steps to protect abortion access. The decision also sets up the potential for legal fights between the states over whether providers and those who help women obtain abortions can be sued or prosecuted.
Here is an overview of abortion legislation and the expected impact of the court’s decision in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.
Political control: Nebraska has an officially nonpartisan legislature with a Republican majority, but not a super-majority that would let the party unilaterally pass an abortion ban. Democrats appear to have enough votes to block such a bill, but just one defector could swing the vote. Nebraska’s Republican governor vehemently opposes abortion.
Background: Nebraska allows most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy, although a few small towns have voted to outlaw the procedure within their borders. The state requires doctors to be physically present when patients take the first of two drugs that are used in medication abortions. Lawmakers have rejected attempts to allow abortion medications to be administered remotely, which would provide easier abortion access in rural areas.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: A ruling that lets states set their own abortion laws will trigger an immediate push by Nebraska conservatives to ban the procedure, but it’s not clear whether they could do it this year. Unlike other conservative states, Nebraska doesn’t have a trigger law that automatically outlaws abortion. Gov. Pete Ricketts and other top Republicans have said they’ll seek a special legislative session, but it’s not clear whether they have enough votes to pass anything.
What’s next: If Ricketts calls a special session, attention will likely shift to state Sen. Justin Wayne, an Omaha Democrat who has declined to specify where he stands on abortion. Wayne was notably absent from a vote on the issue this year; his support would give Republicans the super-majority they need to enact a ban. He has struck deals with senators from both parties in the past. If a proposed abortion ban fails during a special session or if no special session is called, the issue will likely become a factor in the November election.
Political control: Iowa’s legislature is controlled by Republicans who want to ban or restrict abortion access and a Republican governor who agrees and is up for reelection this year.
Background: Iowa allows most abortions until the 20th week of pregnancy, when they’re banned except to save a patient’s life or prevent a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. In 2018, the state Supreme Court declared access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution, granting stronger protections to abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution. The state’s high court, now with a conservative majority, overturned that decision June 17, thus allowing a state law requiring a 24-hour waiting period to go into effect immediately. That requirement is being challenged in district court.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: Nothing is expected to change immediately in Iowa. The GOP-controlled Legislature has been working to get an amendment on the ballot in 2024 that would declare the state constitution does not grant a right to abortion but, with Roe overturned, Iowa lawmakers can ban abortion without completing that lengthy process.
What’s next: Now that the Iowa Supreme Court has struck down its 2018 ruling, the state Legislature can convene a special session this summer and pass abortion restrictions. Republicans could still move to get the constitutional amendment on a public ballot in 2024.
Political control: Both GOP Gov. Mike Parson and the Republican-led Legislature support laws against abortion.
Background: Missouri law previously allowed abortions up until 22 weeks of pregnancy. But a 2019 state law banned abortions “except in cases of medical emergency,” contingent upon the U.S. Supreme Court overturning its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Under that Missouri law, performing an illegal abortion is a felony punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison, though women receiving abortions cannot be prosecuted.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: The 2019 law contained a provision making it effective upon notification by the attorney general, governor or Legislature that the U.S. Supreme Court had overruled Roe v. Wade. Moments after Friday’s Supreme Court decision, Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson filed the necessary paperwork for Missouri’s law to kick in. State statutes were subsequently updated online Friday saying the abortion-ban law had taken effect.
What’s next: Some Missouri residents wanting abortions are likely to travel to neighboring states, including Illinois and Kansas. A new Illinois logistics center near St. Louis helps women from out of state find travel, lodging and childcare if they need help getting to the area for an abortion, and it connects them with funding sources. The Kansas Supreme Court in 2019 declared that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution. Even without the ban in Missouri, the number of Missouri patients seeking abortions in Kansas has gone up in recent years, increasing about 8% from 2020 to 2021.
Political control: Kansas has a legislature controlled by Republicans who want to ban or restrict access to abortions but a Democratic governor who supports access and is up for re-election this year.
Background: Under current law, Kansas does not ban most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy, when they’re allowed only to save a patient’s life or to prevent “a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” The state Supreme Court in 2019 declared that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution, granting stronger protections to abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution does currently. State law, however, doesn’t allow providers to dispense abortion medications through telemedicine consultations.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: Nothing will change immediately in Kansas. The state Supreme Court blocked enforcement of a 2015 legislative ban on a common second-trimester procedure, and abortion opponents fear a host of other rules could fall to legal challenges in the near future. The GOP-controlled Legislature responded by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot during the Aug. 2 primary, when turnout is expected to be much lower than in a general election and will likely see a higher proportion of Republicans voting. The amendment would declare that the state constitution does not grant a right to abortion. It would allow lawmakers to restrict abortion as much as the federal courts will allow.
What’s next: If voters approve the amendment, the Legislature would still have to approve the new restrictions, and lawmakers are out of session until January 2023. They can call themselves into special session with two-thirds majorities, but they’re likely to wait until after voters decide in the November general election whether to give Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly a second term.