WASHINGTON — Anti-abortion groups are feeling empowered after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law banning most abortions to stand, a move that experts have said could be a “blueprint” for gutting abortion rights.
“This is a massive victory for the pro-life movement and we are excited that the law can stay in effect,” said Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate at Texas Right to Life.
Late Wednesday, the high court rejected an appeal from abortion rights advocates to block the restrictive Texas law prohibiting abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law also allows anyone in the country to sue abortion providers or others who help women get the procedure after that time frame.
While lawsuits have been filed against the Texas law, Parma said, “We are optimistic about this law surviving those attacks and that this historic policy will stay in effect and continue to save lives.”
Not long after the ruling, Wilton Simpson, the president of the Florida Senate, said Thursday the Legislature would consider enacting a copycat of the Texas law effectively banning most abortions.
“It’s something we’re already working on,” he told a local Tampa Bay news channel affiliate.
Separately, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted she’s directed the “unborn child advocate” in her office to review the Texas law “and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books in SD.”
And in Arkansas, Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, said in an email that her organization “will seriously consider how a law like S.B. 8 could save unborn lives in Arkansas.”
Abortion rights advocates have said the law is unconstitutional. Prior landmark rulings by the Supreme Court made it illegal for states to ban abortion before a fetus is viable, which generally happens at about the 24th week of pregnancy.
But S.B. 8 was designed not to criminalize abortions outright after six weeks, allowing the law to evade that standard. Rather, critics say, it was written to incentivize civil lawsuits at the municipal, county and state levels — forcing abortion rights supporters to pay potentially crippling costs to defend themselves regardless of the outcome.
Kristin Ford, the acting vice president of communications of the abortion rights group NARAL, said the copycat laws are “deeply troubling.”
“I think there’s too many people who assumed that Roe [v. Wade] was settled law and that the right to abortion was safe and it’s not,” she said.
Looking ahead, Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion organization, said she was encouraged by the ruling, but now all eyes are on the Mississippi case being heard by the Supreme Court later this year, which prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks.
The case is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established the legal right to abortions nationwide.
Anti-abortion activists in Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio echoed Quigley in saying the Mississippi case is the bigger domino to fall and will have a greater effect on abortion law in their states.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said he fielded “countless calls from state reps and state senators” in Ohio on Thursday asking if they should try passing an identical bill to the Texas legislation. He said his advice was to wait out “the big showdown” with the Mississippi case.
“In Ohio, we have a trigger bill that we’re going to get to Gov. [Mike] DeWine by the end of this year,” he said, referring to laws designed to immediately ban abortion in the event Roe is struck down. “And the trigger bill says when Roe is overturned, Ohio will be abortion-free except to save the life of the mother.”
Ohio is one of a number of states that passed a version of the “heartbeat bill,” which makes abortion illegal as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected. Those laws have been enjoined in federal court.
But Gonidakis said if the Supreme Court overturns Roe altogether in ruling on the Mississippi case, “then we don’t have to limit [a ban to] six weeks — we can start at conception.”