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Alabama senators spar over restrictive abortion bill
02:20 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The near-total ban on abortions signed into law in Alabama this month is the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country, but the state is not alone in trying to put limits on the procedure.

Spurred by Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment as the fifth conservative vote on the Supreme Court, anti-abortion activists have moved to pass bills restricting abortion across the country.

These laws may be unenforceable because of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states. But abortion opponents are hoping that the legal challenges will serve as a vehicle for the Supreme Court to eventually overturn the Roe ruling.

Here’s a look at which states are joining in this legal effort:

States that already passed anti-abortion bills

On May 14, Alabama legislators passed a bill banning abortions with very limited exceptions: “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly” and if the woman has an ectopic pregnancy.

An amendment to exempt rape and incest victims failed to pass. The law calls for doctors who perform abortions to be treated as felons and face up to 99 years in prison.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law on May 15, saying the law “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” But she acknowledged that political considerations played a role in the bill’s passage.

“Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973,” she said. “The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.”

Aside from Alabama, multiple states have passed so-called “heartbeat” bills that ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know that they are pregnant.

Louisiana lawmakers passed a “heartbeat bill” on May 29, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It went to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has said he would sign it.

The bill would allow for abortions preventing a pregnant woman’s death or “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Abortions on “medically futile” fetuses that would not survive past birth also are not subject to restrictions.

The bill would require an ultrasound prior to an abortion and subject doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected with a $1,000 fine or up to two years in prison.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a “heartbeat” bill in March. Exceptions are to prevent a woman’s death or her serious risk of impairment.

“The heartbeat has been the universal hallmark of life since man’s very beginning,” Bryant said in an address before signing the bill.

A federal judge on May 24 issued a preliminary injunction that blocks the law from taking effect in July.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into a heartbeat bill in April, a day after the state House and Senate passed the law. Similar legislation was vetoed by former Gov. John Kasich before he left office.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill May 7 that would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The American Civil Liberties Union has said it will challenge the law in court.

Current Georgia law allows women to undergo abortion procedures up to their 20th week of pregnancy. The new law would generally ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected and takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a bill that prohibits abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. It includes exceptions for what it defines as medical emergencies, such as cases when the mother’s life is at risk or she is facing serious permanent injury, but not for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

Kentucky passed a “heartbeat” bill in March, but a federal judge stopped it from being enforced.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill in March that bans abortions after 18 weeks into a pregnancy – six weeks before the standard set by Roe v. Wade – except in medical emergencies and in cases of rape or incest.

Utah similarly passed a law that bans abortion after 18 weeks gestation, but the law was blocked by a federal judge in April, CNN affiliate KSL reported. The state and defendants agreed to the injunction and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, a defendant in the case, said he won’t enforce the law, KSL reported.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed “heartbeat” legislation in May 2018, but a state judge struck down the law this January.

The judge wrote in his decision that defenders didn’t identify a compelling reason for the ban. Reynolds said she was disappointed by the decision but decided not to appeal the judge’s decision because she saw “no path to successfully appeal the district court’s decision or to get this lawsuit before the US Supreme Court.”

States working to pass anti-abortion bills

A fetal heartbeat bill in South Carolina passed the state House in April and was introduced in the state Senate, online records show. A fetal heartbeat bill in West Virginia was introduced in the state House in February.

In Florida, a fetal heartbeat bill was introduced and failed. The sponsor, Rep. Mike Hill, plans to reintroduce it next year, CNN affiliate WSVN reported.

A Texas fetal heartbeat bill formally died last week after it failed to win initial approval by midnight, the Dallas Morning News reported.

States adding abortion protections

At the same time, states controlled by Democrats have moved to add abortion protections.

New York passed a law in January that protects some late-term abortions, saying they can be performed after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus is not viable or when necessary to protect the mother’s life.

The law, passed on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, removes abortion from the criminal code and protects doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution.

“With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that, whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

In Vermont, the state legislature passed a proposal to amend the state constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion. Before it can become law, the legislature would need to pass the bill again next year, and voters would need to approve it in a 2022 referendum.

If approved, Vermont would become the first state to enshrine abortion access in its constitution, said Catherine Glenn Foster, president of pro-life group Americans United for Life.

The Maine House of Representatives voted 74-58 on May 21 to pass a bill that would expand the number of health care professionals who can perform abortions in the state.

The bill would allow, with proper training, a “physician assistant or an advanced practice registered nurse licensed as such in this State to perform abortions, in addition to a licensed allopathic or osteopathic physician.” The bill will head to the state Senate next.

The majority-female Nevada Assembly passed a bill on May 21 that would rewrite existing state laws to no longer require doctors to tell women about the “emotional implications” of an abortion.

Under the bill, physicians would no longer have to certify in writing a pregnant woman’s marital status, age and written consent before performing an abortion. A doctor would have to explain the procedure and its proper post-operation care along with the risks associated with the procedure.

The Nevada bill now goes back to the Senate, which passed it last month, for a final vote on an amendment before it goes to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk.

CNN’s Madeline Holcombe, Carma Hassan, Caroline Kelly, Tina Burnside and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.