The Supreme Court is pushing the divided nation closer to breaking point with new battles over abortion
For anti-abortion advocates, who see abortion as tantamount to fetal death, these are inevitable consequences of righting a moral wrong. But Americans who support abortion rights and live in states where it is now illegal feel victimized by unacceptable government interference in their decisions about their health and their families.
Regardless of their philosophical positions on terminating pregnancy, leaders on both sides of the political aisle are grappling with government challenges posed by the sudden end of legal abortion in some states. Republicans, who have long promised to ban the procedure, are facing calls to provide more social services for people who force them to give birth — and their babies. The Democrats are considering how to strengthen abortion rights in the blue states against possible pressure from future Republican majorities in Washington for a national ban.
Perhaps the United States will eventually reach an uneasy balance on abortion. But so far, local, state and national leaders have been pushed sideways by the court’s decision. Years of patchwork abortion practices and confusion lie ahead.
Judge Samuel Alito argued last week that he and his Conservative peers “could not pretend to know” how the political system would respond to their judicial earthquake, but said the authority to regulate abortion must rest with the people.
But the rest of the country is having to live with what it believes it has done and the consequences of the sudden withdrawal of a well-established fundamental right – regardless of individual views on abortion.
And the chaos unleashed could be a preview of years to come, in which the court appears determined to crush precedents on social issues, financial regulation, gun laws, religion in the public space and government power to regulate the environment.
“The irony is that one of the bases of Alito’s decision was that … it was time to end the controversy. He did exactly the opposite,” Nancy Gertner, a retired district judge nominated by former President Bill Clinton, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
The dispute entered the courtrooms on Monday. In Louisiana, a judge blocked the state’s abortion “trigger law,” which went into effect shortly after the Supreme Court ruling. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Hope Medical Group for Women and Medical Students for Choice, argued that the bans were unconstitutionally vague. This was one of the first of countless legal challenges across the country stemming from the Supreme Court decision.
A Utah judge issued an injunction to block the state’s “trigger ban” after the state’s Planned Parenthood chapter filed a lawsuit over the weekend. Performing an abortion in the Beehive State under the ban would be a second-degree felony in most cases, according to the lawsuit. There are some exceptions, including for a mother’s health or following rape or incest.
In some other states, however, the laws are even stricter and are likely to pose further challenges. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, a federal judge lifted a six-week ban on the state’s abortion ban — allowing the state to enforce its “heartbeat law.”
Ten states ban or severely restrict the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for abortion rights. More are likely to follow shortly, including Mississippi, Tennessee, and Idaho.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, defended his state’s status as a target for women deprived of abortion rights. “It’s a fundamental right. Everyone should have it,” Pritzker told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
There are also thorny legal issues that officials have not yet begun to resolve. For example, how will anti-abortion states enforce their laws? Will they crack down on women who order abortion pills from abroad? And how will they deal with companies that fund travel for out-of-state care for employees? And, under pressure from employees, will some of these companies feel the need to relocate to abortion-protected states?
Some Americans pay a heavy price
As is often the case after massive political showdowns that expose the country’s divisions, Americans must try to live their lives in the aftermath. Friday’s decision caused great personal uncertainty. Pregnant women in anti-abortion communities are now facing life crises they might not have faced last week. Complex questions arise about whether some government abortion restrictions could affect the availability of fertility treatments or limit physicians’ ability to treat women after miscarriages.
There have been pledges of financial and emotional support for mothers from conservative leaders, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. So far, however, there are few details in GOP-run states, which are less likely to spend on health and social programs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday outlined legislative ideas for Democratic colleagues that would clarify that Americans have the constitutional right to travel freely. The Speaker also plans to pass legislation enshrining Roe v. to put Wade into effect. But such a measure has no chance of overcoming a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
As government challenges from the Supreme Court bombshell reverberate, some politicians are sensing an opening. While some Republicans have tread cautiously, former Vice President Mike Pence, a potential 2024 presidential nominee, has backed a nationwide abortion ban wholeheartedly.
To expand his evangelical power base, Pence told Breitbart News last week that he will not rest until “the sanctity of life at the heart of American law is restored in every state in the country.”
His successor as vice president also had the decision’s future political implications in mind as she articulated a humane message that Democrats could use in the upcoming election.
Harris told CNN that “as a former prosecutor who specializes in violent crimes against women and girls, particularly child sexual assault and rape, the idea that a woman, having endured such violence to her body, does not give her freedom.” would have and authority to decide whether she wanted to continue an abusive pregnancy is absolutely unthinkable.”
But as far as Alito’s opinion is concerned, these are not questions for the court.
CNN’s Jasmine Wright, Annie Grayer, Tina Burnside, Kelly McCleary, Aya Elamroussi, and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.