Two State Abortion Laws are a Preview of What's to Come

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

In two states, Indiana and Pennsylvania, lawmakers are seeking to erode access to abortion, in one case, by making it a criminal act. Earlier this week, Indiana State Representative Curt Nisly said that he would introduce a legislation that would outlaw all abortions in the state.


The “Protection at Conception” legislation, as Nisly is calling it, would make all abortions a prosecutable crime. The Indianapolis Star reports that the bill would allow the state to prosecute anyone who participated in the procedure. “You would treat the death of an unborn child like you would any other human being,” Nisly told the newspaper.

The Star suggests that the legislation, while clearly unconstitutional, is the result of anti-choice advocates feeling emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. While on the campaign trail, Trump said that women who have abortions should be “punished,” though he later softened that language. For all of his disinterest in abortion during the campaign, Trump has promised to appoint anti-choice judges. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, the President-Elect said that he would appoint a Supreme Court justice committed to the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Nisly indicated as much:

My position is that the Supreme Court is wrong with Roe v. Wade,” Nisly said, “and they don’t have jurisdiction in this manner. This is the state of Indiana asserting the powers that are given to them, specifically in the 9th and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.”

It’s worth noting that Indiana already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country thanks, in part, to former governor Mike Pence. The state currently has the fourth highest rate of maternal death in the United States and its infant mortality rate is more than two points higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the state’s Senate tried to push through House Bill 1948, which passed the House last year. HB 1948, aimed at restricting second-trimester abortions, makes abortion past 20 weeks illegal. The ceiling in the state is currently 24 weeks. In addition to restricting the time limit, the bill would officially rename second-trimester abortions “dismemberment abortion.” Pennsylvania’s bill has exceptions for only for the life of the mother, but detractors have criticized the exemption, saying that it’s too restrictive.

Pennsylvania’s Senate tried to sneak HB 1948 through the chamber yesterday after the Governor Tom Wolf asked them to reorganize for a special session. The intent was to pass a budget bill, but supporters put HB 1948 back into the mix. At the last minute, the bill was tabled and no vote was taken. Supporters have indicated that they will reintroduce it in the next legislative session (it’s worth noting that Pennsylvania Republicans have enough votes to override a veto).

Indiana and Pennsylvania’s bills are perhaps indicative of an anti-choice movement that’s feeling particularly emboldened right now. It’s worth remembering that the GOP currently controls the majority of state houses and these kinds of laws might find themselves with more sympathetic federal judges during inevitable challenges.


The Ghost of James Madison's Rage Boner

I’m so proud of those people who felt maintaining their political purity was more important than a Trump-controlled Supreme Court.