Rebecca Boone and John Khan – Associated Press
Boyce, Idaho (AP) – Angela Howsley was halfway through her pregnancy when she learned that the fetus develops without parts of the brain and skull and is likely to die within hours or days of birth if it had survived that long.
The news came during her 20-week ultrasound.
“The technician got a really horrible look on his face,” Houseley said. “And we got very sad news that our child was anencephalic.”
It was 1992, and abortion was legal in Idaho, although after the procedure she had to evade anti-abortion protesters at Boise Hospital. Had the same scenario happened later this year, she would probably have been forced to postpone it until the deadline.
This is because Idaho is one of at least 22 states with laws banning abortion at 15 weeks or earlier, many of which have no exceptions regarding fetal viability, rape or incest, or even a woman’s health. Some of these bans will take effect when the U.S. Supreme Court rules to overturn Rowe v. Wade’s 1973 ruling, according to a leaked draft opinion.
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Such exceptions were once regularly included in even the most conservative anti-abortion proposals. But how the struggle for access to abortion heated up, experts on both sides of the issue say the exceptions were a temporary stepping stone to make anti-abortion laws more enjoyable.
Many of the current abortion bans are designed as “legislative acts” that automatically take effect when a court acts abolishes the national right to abortion. The ruling is expected to be published in late June or early July.
Alabama and Oklahoma have imposed bans without exception. Alabama’s 2019 law has been blocked by a federal court but may be reinstated based on a Supreme Court decision. Republican sponsors speculated that the law would be a means of challenging Rowe in court, and said they could later add exceptions to rape and incest if Rowe is repealed.
“They’re mostly using people – women in this particular situation – as collateral harm,” said Democratic MP Chris England, chairman of the Democratic Party of Alabama. – In the debate, we tried to talk to them sensibly and say: “What will happen if you win? This is the law, you will not be able to change it until people suffer.”
A number of other states, including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, also have bans or bans that have no exceptions for rape or incest, according to the Gutmacher Institute and the Associated Press.
Idaho and Utah have exceptions for rape or incest, but require a pregnant woman to first report it to the police and then prove to the abortion operator that the report was made. According to the National Network of Rape, Violence and Incest, only about a third of sexual assaults are reported to police.
Texas and Idaho allow exceptions for “emergencies,” but leave that interpretation to doctors, leading some critics to fear that doctors will wait for intervention until a woman approaches death.
Public support for a total abortion ban looks low, according to a Pew Research Center poll released on Friday and conducted in March. The poll found that only 10% of U.S. adults believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases. In a further study, only 8% believe that abortion should be illegal without exception. Another 27% say abortion in most cases should be illegal.
In Arkansas, there are two almost complete bans on abortion – the 2019 trigger law and one passed last year, which was blocked by a federal court. Neither one nor the other has exceptions regarding rape or incest, although they do allow abortions to save a woman’s life. The state also never lifted the total ban on abortion, which was unrestricted until 1973.
Last year, Republicans in the state were divided on the issue: Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Missy Irwin expressed reservations about the lack of remedies for survivors of sexual violence.
“Do you know how many young girls are on guard for suicide because they were raped because they were victims of incest?” Asked Irwin, who finally voted for last year’s bill.
Last year’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, defended the absence of exceptions, saying it still allows emergency contraception.
Elizabeth Nash, an analyst with state policy on abortion rights who supports the Gutmacher Institute, said that of the 86 proposals to limit abortions expected this year, only a few – including one each in Idaho, New Jersey and West Virginia – include exclusions of rape and incest.
Exceptions have always been “incredibly limited,” she said. “You might think these exceptions are helpful. But in reality they are so limited that they are very difficult to use. “
Troy Newman, president of the national abortion group Operation Rescue, said exemptions from restrictions on abortion for rape and incest, as well as to protect the lives of pregnant women in the past, had been “introduced to reassure some centrists.”
Newman said his group, based in Wichita, Kansas, opposes the exclusion of rape and incest. Their rationale: “Do not punish the child for the crime of the father.”
The Ohio legislature is passing a trigger law that lacks exceptions for sexual assault. During last month’s hearing, Republican bill sponsor Jean Schmidt sparked controversy when she called rape pregnancy a “possibility” for a rape victim “to decide what she will do to help this life be a productive person.”
She was answering a question from Democratic MP Rich Brown, who asked whether a 13-year-old teenager fertilized during the rape would be forced to postpone it.
Schmidt acknowledged that rape “emotionally hurts a person, but when a child is created, it’s human life.”
Democratic MP Tavia Golonsky objected that pregnancy is often traumatic and dangerous in itself, adding: “Then forcing a rape survivor to endure pregnancy and postpone childbirth is completely vile and only adds to the trauma they have already suffered.”
In South Carolina, proponents of banning abortion in 2021 added exceptions for rape and incest because it was the only way to pass the law. During the debate, Republican Sen. Richard Cash spoke out against the exceptions.
“Punish the rapist … but it doesn’t belong to the child,” he said.
Sen. Democrat Mia McLeod responded that it was clear that Cash had never been raped.
“Well, I have. You are looking at a person who has experienced sexual violence, ”she said, adding that demanding victims of rape to take children out on time could lead them to desperate measures, including dangerous illegal abortions or suicides.
“I’m just asking the men in this body to give a choice to the women and girls of this state,” McLeod said.
New Hampshire has banned abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, except when a woman’s health is at risk, although the state will soon add an exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. A Republican-led legislature has rejected attempts to add exclusions of rape and incest.
Republican spokeswoman Beth Falls, who said in January that she had survived the rape, argued that exceptions were not needed because rape victims closely monitor their menstrual cycles and will not wait 24 weeks to have an abortion. She added that the exclusion of incest is not necessary because “this aggressor will have an abortion before anyone finds out.”
Mallory Schwartz, executive director of Missouri Pro-Choice, has expressed concern that provisions in laws similar to Texas law that allow abortions for the past six weeks in emergency medical situations will require doctors to wait until a patient seems to be dying to do so. abortion.
“Any of these parts that are left to be interpreted will usually have a serious effect on providers who do not want to jeopardize their careers and livelihoods, practices and ability to care for other patients,” Schwartz said.
Many bans prohibit abortion after six weeks, when vaginal ultrasound can first detect electrical activity in embryonic cells that can later become the heart. Proponents call them the “laws of the heartbeat,” arguing that heart rate is a reliable indicator of life.
In Idaho, Hausley has repeatedly testified against the abortion ban in the state legislature, but said lawmakers were not interested in hearing about her experience.
“My baby had a heartbeat, but that’s not the only thing a baby needs,” Houseley said. Anti-abortion politicians “are not at all interested in the reality of the issue. They have captured this debate, and so we are where we are.”
Hannah reported from Topeka, Kansas. Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhat and AP Statehouse reporters from across the United States have contributed.
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