Anti-abortion bills: Odds good in GOP states, not Congress
President Donald Trump's call for a ban on late-term abortions is unlikely to prevail in Congress, but Republican legislators in several states are pushing ahead with their own tough anti-abortion bills that they hope can pass muster with the Supreme Court.
Two bills proposing to outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, advanced out of House and Senate committees in the Mississippi Legislature this week. GOP Gov. Phil Bryant is pledging to sign either into law.
Efforts to pass similar bills are underway in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.
In Ohio, former Republican Gov. John Kasich twice vetoed the measure; his successor, Republican Mike DeWine, has said he would sign it. In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Lee and the top two GOP state lawmakers say they support the measure.
Iowa passed a heartbeat bill last year that was struck down by a state judge on Jan. 22. In response, many GOP lawmakers are trying to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that would stipulate there is no right to abortion in Iowa.
South Carolina, in addition to a heartbeat bill, will consider a measure introduced Wednesday that would broadly ban abortions and allow the possibility of criminal charges against individuals who perform them.
Trump, in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, cited recent controversies in New York and Virginia over late-term abortions, and urged Congress "to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in a mother's womb."
Legislation to achieve that goal failed to win passage even when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. It has virtually no chance of success now that Democrats control the House.
Nonetheless, anti-abortion legislators and activists believe Trump has bolstered their cause with his appointments of conservative Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Abortion opponents foresee the possibility that the high court might either reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, or uphold specific state laws that would undermine Roe.
In Indiana, four anti-abortion laws have been blocked or thrown out by federal judges since 2013. Activists believe they now have a better opportunity for success, thanks to Trump’s Supreme Court appointees.