By REBECCA BOONE and JOHN HANNA – Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Angela Housley was midway through her pregnancy when she learned the fetus was developing without parts of her brain and skull and would likely die within hours to days of birth, s he survived that long.
The news came during her 20-week ultrasound.
“The tech had a really awful look on her face,” Housley said. “And we got the very sad news that our baby was anencephalic.”
It was 1992 and abortion was legal in Idaho, although she had to dodge anti-abortion protesters outside the hospital in Boise after the procedure. If the same scenario were to play out later this year, she would likely be forced to go through with it.
That’s because Idaho, which prohibits abortion after six weeks, is one of at least 22 states with laws banning abortion before week 15, many of which lack exceptions for fetal viability, rape or incest, or even the woman’s health. Many of these bans would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling reversing Roe v. Wade from 1973, as a leaked version of the notice suggests.
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Such exceptions were once routinely included in the most conservative anti-abortion proposals. But as the battle over abortion access intensifies, experts on both sides of the issue say the exceptions were a temporary stepping stone intended to make anti-abortion laws more palatable.
Many of the current abortion bans are designed as ‘trigger laws’, which come into effect automatically if the High Court strikes down the nation’s right to abortion. This decision should be made at the end of June or the beginning of July.
Alabama and Oklahoma have enacted bans with no exceptions. Alabama’s 2019 law is stalled in federal court but could be reinstated based on the Supreme Court’s ruling. Republican sponsors viewed the legislation as a way to challenge Roe in court and said they could add rape and incest exceptions later if Roe is overturned.
“They’re basically using people — in this particular situation, women — as collateral damage,” said Democratic Rep. Chris England, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. “In the debate, we tried to talk to them reasonably and say, ‘What happens if you win? It’s the law, you won’t get a chance to change it before people get hurt.”
Several other states, including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, also have bans or trigger laws in place that lack exceptions for rape or incest, according to reports by the Guttmacher Institute and the Associated Press.
Idaho and Utah have exceptions for rape or incest, but require the pregnant woman to first file a police report and then prove to the abortion provider that the report was made. Only about a third of sexual assaults are reported to police, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
Texas and Idaho allow exceptions for “medical emergencies” but leave that interpretation up to doctors, raising concerns among some critics that doctors wait to intervene until a woman is near death.
Public support for banning abortion altogether appears to be weak, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Friday and conducted in March. The survey showed that only 8% of American adults think abortion should be illegal in all cases without exception, and 61% of adults say abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances. Surveys consistently show that many Americans have nuanced attitudes about the legality of abortion based on the stage of pregnancy, the circumstances of conception, and the health of the mother or fetus.
Arkansas has two near-total abortion bans — a 2019 trigger law and one passed last year that is stalled in federal court. Neither have exceptions for rape or incest, although they allow abortions to save the woman’s life. The state also never repealed its pre-1973 total ban on abortion without any restrictions.
Republicans in the state were divided on the issue last year, with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Senator Missy Irvin expressing reservations about the lack of protections for sexual assault survivors.
“Do you know how many young girls are under suicide watch because they have been raped, because they have been victims of incest? asked Irvin, who ultimately voted for last year’s bill.
The sponsor of last year’s ban, Republican Senator Jason Rapert, defended the lack of exemptions, saying he still allowed the use of emergency contraception.
Elizabeth Nash, an abortion-rights state policy analyst supporting the Guttmacher Institute, said that of 86 pending proposals for abortion restrictions this year, only a few — including one in Idaho , New Jersey and West Virginia – include exceptions for rape and incest.
Exceptions were always “incredibly limited”, she said. “You might think these exceptions are useful. But in fact, they are so restricted that they are very difficult to use.”
Troy Newman, president of the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said exceptions to abortion restrictions for rape and incest and to protect the life of a pregnant woman in the past were “put in there to appease some centrists.
Newman said her group, based in Wichita, Kansas, opposes the rape and incest exceptions. Their justification: “Do not punish the baby for the crime of the father.
The Ohio Legislature is considering a trigger law that lacks exceptions for sexual assault. During a hearing last month, the bill’s GOP sponsor, Rep. Jean Schmidt, sparked controversy when she called the pregnancy resulting from rape an “opportunity” for the rape victim of ” determine what she is going to do to help this life to be a productive human being.
She was responding to a question from Democratic Representative Rich Brown, who asked if a 13-year-old girl impregnated during a rape would be forced to carry out.
Rape “emotionally scars the individual,” Schmidt conceded, “but if a baby is created, it’s a human life.”
Democratic Rep. Tavia Galonski countered that pregnancy is often traumatic and dangerous in itself, adding: “Forcing a rape survivor to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth afterwards is utterly despicable and only adds to the trauma she has already suffered. .”
In South Carolina, supporters of a 2021 abortion ban added exceptions for rape and incest because that was the only way to pass the law. During the debate, Republican Senator Richard Cash opposed the exceptions.
“Punish the rapist… but it’s not up to the baby,” he said.
Democratic Senator Mia McLeod replied that it was obvious Cash had never been raped.
“Well, I did. You’re dealing with a survivor of sexual assault,” she said, adding that requiring rape victims to carry their babies to term could lead to desperate measures, including dangerous illegal abortions or suicides.
“I’m just asking that the men of this body leave the choice to the women and girls of this state,” McLeod said.
New Hampshire has banned abortion after 24 weeks’ gestation except when the woman’s health is at risk, though the state will soon add an exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. The Republican-led legislature rejected attempts to add exceptions to rape and incest.
Republican Rep. Beth Folsom, who said in January that she was a rape survivor, argued that the exceptions were unnecessary because rape victims carefully track their menstrual cycles and would not wait 24 weeks to segregate. abort. An incest exception was not necessary, she added, because “this abuser is going to make sure that young girl or woman has an abortion before anyone finds out.”
Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri, expressed concern that provisions in laws like the one in Texas that allow abortions beyond six weeks in medical emergencies will force doctors to wait until a patient appears to be dying to perform an abortion.
“Any of these types of things left to interpretation will generally have a chilling effect on providers who don’t want to jeopardize their careers, livelihoods, practice, and ability to care for other patients” , Schwarz said.
Many bans prohibit abortion after six weeks, when vaginal ultrasound can first detect electrical activity in embryonic cells that can then become the heart. Proponents call them the “Laws of Heart Rhythm”, arguing that heart activity is a reliable indicator of life.
In Idaho, Housley repeatedly testified against state abortion bans in the Legislature, but said lawmakers weren’t interested in hearing about his experience.
“My baby had a heartbeat, but that’s not the only thing a baby needs,” Housley said. Anti-abortion politicians “are not at all interested in the reality of this issue. They have hijacked this discussion, and that’s why we are here.”
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut and AP reporters from across the United States contributed.
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