Abortion continues to consume American politics and courts, two years after a Supreme Court draft was leaked

Two years after a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion indicated that the nation’s abortion landscape was about to change dramatically, the issue continues to consume the nation’s courts, legislatures and political campaigns — and is changing the course of life.

On Wednesday, a ban on abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy, often before women realize they are pregnant, went into effect in Florida, following laws in two other states. In Arizona, meanwhile, lawmakers voted to repeal a total abortion ban that dated to 1864, decades before Arizona became a state — and the governor signed it a day later. Also this week, the Kansas Legislature increased funding for anti-abortion centers, while advocates in South Dakota submitted the required number of signatures for a ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

The status of abortion in states across the country has been constantly changing, with lawmakers passing measures and courts ruling on challenges to it. Currently, fourteen states maintain bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions. Most Democratic-led states, meanwhile, have taken steps to maintain or expand access.

“Some of it is exactly what we knew was going to happen,” says David Cohen, a professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law who studies abortion policy, “and some of it was big surprises that, frankly, the anti-abortion movement on their heels.”

Although more than two dozen states have begun enforcing abortion bans to varying degrees since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, studies have shown that the number of monthly abortions nationally is about the same — or higher — than before the ruling. . Asked to weigh in on the emotional debate, voters backed the position abortion rights advocates have favored on all seven statewide ballot measures since then.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was officially released on June 24, 2022, making abortion legal nationwide for nearly 50 years. But the world got a glimpse of it about six weeks earlier, on May 2, after Politico published a leaked draft.

“The Dobbs decision now allows the will of the people to be met,” said Stephen Billy, vice president of state affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. He said abortion rights advocates have tried to create uncertainty about laws that he said are clear — especially with claims that the ban bans abortion in medical emergencies: “They have tried to sow political division just to advance their policy agenda,” said he.

At the time Politico published the leaked draft, Amanda Zurawski was undergoing fertility treatment and would be about two weeks away from learning that she was finally pregnant.

The woman from Austin, Texas, had always supported abortion rights and was angry that abortion rights were about to disappear. But she didn’t expect an immediate impact on her life.

That changed months later when she was denied an abortion despite premature rupture of waters, which can lead to dangerous internal bleeding. Days later, she was diagnosed with sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection. Her daughter, Willow, was eventually aborted, but Zurawski almost died in the process due to the delay.

She emerged from the experience as an activist.

“I thought I would be a new mom with a newborn baby,” she said in an interview. “Instead, I was in Tallahassee, Florida, meeting the vice president.”

Zurawski served as a plaintiff in a lawsuit to clarify Texas abortion law and has spoken about her experiences before Congress and across the country. She recently left her tech job to support abortion rights and President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign in the coming months.

“I’m definitely someone who wants to fight for justice,” she said. “This is not the path I expected.”

Zurawski’s widespread experience reflects the central role abortion has played on the political stage during this highly charged election year.

In Arizona, one of the few battleground states that will decide the next president, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling last month saying a near-complete 1864 abortion ban could be implemented now that Roe v. Wade had been overturned. That decision ultimately led to the repeal bill that passed the state House last week and the Senate on Wednesday after a vitriolic debate. Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, signed the repeal Thursday. However, it is expected that the 1864 law will remain in force for some time to come.

Florida, Maryland and New York will take measures to protect abortion access on the November ballot.

“Women will find themselves in an impossible situation where they won’t have access to health care, whether it’s an emergency or family planning,” said Nikki Fried, chair of the Democratic Party of Florida. “Floridians have an opportunity to take back control.”

Susan B. Anthony’s Billy said his group was focused on defeating the ballot questions in Florida and other states, where their passage would now roll back bans.

Arizona is one of at least eight states seeking a similar measure. A few states have also pushed for measures to enshrine bans in the state constitution.

The issue also weighs heavily in the presidential elections.

President Joe Biden has criticized his likely opponent, former President Donald Trump, for appointing the Supreme Court justices who influenced the Roe v. Wade decision. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida on Wednesday to criticize the six-week ban in the country’s third-most populous state.

Trump, who said in April that he believes abortion laws should be set by states, went further this week, telling Time Magazine that states should also be able to prosecute women who seek abortions. Proposals to do that have not gained steam in any state legislature yet.