In 2021 alone, there have been 106 restrictions on abortion access enacted so far by Republican-ruled U.S. states: the highest number, according to the Guttmacher Institute, since the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that made abortion a constitutionally guaranteed right. The conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court is known to be the ultimate driving force behind the pro-life legislature, and it is set to rule on Roe v. Wade, most likely in the summer, when, according to the predictions of many, it will overturn it and mark the end of the right to abortion.
Even Friday’s ruling that seemed to be a partial victory against the Texas law prohibiting abortion from the moment when the fetus’s heartbeat is detectable (about 6 weeks), according to Mary Ziegler in The Atlantic, “almost invites other states to imitate Texas’s approach, creating the possibility for more constitutional chaos.” And that’s exactly what GOP-run states are doing.
In Ohio, a bill—SB13—follows the mechanism of Texas’s SB8, giving private citizens the role of bounty hunters, and going far beyond the 6-week limit of the other law: it bans abortion from the moment the egg is fertilized, and allows it only if the mother’s life is in danger. And like many other states, Ohio is also preparing its own trigger ban: a state law that would automatically come into force, outlawing any form of abortion, if the Supreme Court were to rule that abortion is no longer a constitutionally guaranteed right, authorizing states to legislate on the matter as they see fit. And this is despite the fact that 55 percent of Ohioans, according to a 2019 Quinnipiac University poll, say that abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” cases. However, their representatives, because of Republican gerrymandering, are two-thirds pro-life, as Kellie Copeland, director of NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) Ohio, told the Washington Post.
In Arkansas, GOP lawmakers are pushing a bill that is also intended to ban all forms of abortion, and which includes an outrageous comparison of the personhood of a fetus with that of African Americans: the Supreme Court, the Arkansas legislators write, must rectify injustices to fetuses as it has done for black U.S. citizens in the past.
Texas, in the vanguard of the assault against the right to abortion, in addition to having enacted the “Heartbeat Law,” has also restricted abortion-inducing drugs starting from December 2: precisely those drugs most used to terminate pregnancies before six weeks.
The dystopian scenario that looms on the horizon in the United States is manifesting, in one of its many incarnations, in the battle over abortion, potentially damaging to the very functioning of U.S. democracy and its institutions, starting with the Supreme Court, as noted by Judge Sonia Sotomayor during the hearing on the Mississippi law that aims to overturn Roe v. Wade: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public … that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”