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How blue states are preparing if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Activists from both sides of the abortion debate participate demonstrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in January.
Alex Edelman
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AFP via Getty Images
Activists from both sides of the abortion debate participate demonstrate outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in January.

As the country awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrat-led states are proposing laws to shore up abortion rights at the local level.

The effort is in direct response to the organized campaign to make abortion illegal. Dozens of states have enacted laws, or are considering them, to restrict access to abortion as the country awaits the Supreme Court's decision.

On Wednesday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed S.B. 1309, a ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. It also allows for abortion providers in Idaho to be sued, much like the Texas law approved last year.

And earlier this month, the Oklahoma House approved its own near-total abortion ban in the state. Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are looking to follow suit.

Those are just a few of the 519 abortion restrictions introduced in 41 states in 2022, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

"Abortion bans are gaining a lot of attention because there are so many of them and they are so harmful," Elizabeth Nash, the interim associate director of state issues at the Guttmacher Institute, told NPR. "It's a little less obvious progressive states are moving to protect abortion rights."

But they are.

States pass legislation solidifying abortion rights

According to Guttmacher, if Roe was overturned or fundamentally weakened, 21 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible.

But on the other hand, more than a dozen states have moved to codify the right to an abortion in state law, rather than rely entirely on Roe.

On the same day Little signed S.B. 1309, Colorado's legislature approved the Reproductive Health Equity Act. The legislation solidifies protections for abortion access within Colorado law. If signed by Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado will join 15 other states that have similar laws on the books.

Karen Middleton, the president of Colorado abortion rights group Cobalt, said in a statement: "As abortion access hangs in the balance at the Supreme Court, RHEA ensures these fundamental rights are protected in Colorado State Law."

She said the legislation "should serve as encouragement to policymakers and advocates in other states that boldly protecting reproductive rights, including abortion rights, can be done and it's the right thing to do."

Vermont voters will decide on a similar constitutional amendment during a statewide referendum in November.

Kansas, Kentucky and Iowa have responded in the opposite way. They've taken steps to pass an amendment explicitly declaring their state constitution does not secure or protect the right to abortion.

Iowa Republicans said of the amendment last year that it would "correct judicial overreach" of the Iowa Supreme Court that in 2018 found the state's constitution protects abortion rights.

Advocates for bodily autonomy march to the Florida Capitol in February to protest a state bill to limit abortions.
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Advocates for bodily autonomy march to the Florida Capitol in February to protest a state bill to limit abortions.

Blue states look to fund abortion expansion

Another issue is money. California, Oregon and Washington have recently moved to expand financial support for abortion access.

"This year, states are really looking to put in place some kind of funding mechanism to support abortion access," Nash said.

Earlier this month, the Oregon legislature approved a $15 million allocation in state funds to assist abortion providers, increase training or provide travel funds for women in need.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill making abortion procedures cheaper for the patient.
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Getty Images
California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill making abortion procedures cheaper for the patient.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation last Tuesday that eliminates out-of-pocket insurance fees for abortion services. Illinois, New York and Oregon have similar laws on the books.

Clinics that provide abortions in the Golden State are hoping to create a "sanctuary" for women seeking abortions. Lawmakers there are considering several proposals to prepare for what they expect will be a rush of patients from other states seeking care.

One such proposal would offer up to $20 million in funding for scholarships and loan repayments to health care providers that commit to reproductive health care services.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.