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Explainer: Current challenges to abortion bans in 5 states

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July 8, 2022

From Jan. 22, 1973, until June 24, 2022, abortion law was uniform across the United States. But in their ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court returned the “authority to regulate abortion . . . to the people and their elected representatives.” That does not mean, though, that the people or their elected representatives will immediately get to decide if abortion will be illegal in their state. 

A recent flurry of lawsuits filed by abortion providers has led some judges to block or stall newly implemented abortion bans and restrictions. Here are five states in which the legal status of abortion is being challenged.

Florida

Florida passed a law earlier this year banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. When the law was challenged by abortion providers, a state judge issued a temporary statewide injunction preventing the law from taking effect.

The state’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, filed an appeal on behalf of the state, automatically staying the judge’s order under Florida state law. 

Current status: Abortion is legal in Florida in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Kentucky

After the Dobbs ruling, Kentucky’s trigger law went into effect, banning nearly all abortions in the state. By the next Monday, though, the state’s two remaining abortion clinics filed a lawsuit claiming the trigger law was unconstitutional since a right to privacy and bodily autonomy was protected by the Kentucky Constitution. A state judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the trigger law from remaining in effect. 

In response, the state’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, filed an emergency motion to undo the injunction. That motion was rejected by the Kentucky Court of Appeal, as was a request to the state’s Supreme Court. Cameron said on Twitter, “we’ve now asked all three levels of Kentucky’s judiciary to allow these laws to take effect. Not a single judge at any level has suggested these laws are unconstitutional, yet we are unfortunately still prohibited from enforcing them.”

A hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday to determine whether the law will remain blocked pending litigation of the lawsuit.

Current status: Abortion remains legal in Kentucky.

Mississippi

The Mississippi legislature passed a law in 2007 banning all abortions except for when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is caused by a rape that has been reported to law enforcement. That law went into effect after the Dobbs ruling and was immediately challenged by the state’s only abortion clinic.

A state judge denied the request by the clinic to allow them to continue providing abortion while the lawsuit was being decided. 

Current status: Abortion is illegal in Mississippi.

Ohio

Hours after the Dobbs ruling, a federal judge in Ohio allow the previously blocked six-week abortion ban to take effect. ​The Ohio law bans abortions at approximately six weeks’ gestation, when a fetal heartbeat is detectable. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit claiming abortion is protected by the Ohio Constitution. 

An emergency stay on the law was denied by the Ohio Supreme Court while litigation against it moves forward.

Current status: Abortion remains legal in Ohio for the first six weeks of pregnancy.

Texas

Texas has a never-repealed law from 1925 that bans abortion and makes performing an abortion, by any method, punishable by two to 10 years in prison. After the Dobbs ruling, a group of abortion providers challenged that law. A state judge in Houston ruled that the pre-Roe abortion ban “is repealed and may not be enforced consistent with the due process guaranteed by the Texas constitution.” That allowed abortions to continue in clinics at four Texas cities until a hearing scheduled for July 12.

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision. Their ruling does not allow prosecutors to bring criminal cases against abortion providers, but it exposes anyone who assists in the procurement of an abortion to fines and lawsuits. 

Current status: Abotion is currently illegal in Texas.