Legislators pushing for tighter abortion laws have the Supreme Court in their sights

In March 2016, Donald Trump said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who procure an abortion. The pro-life movement couldn’t distance itself from his comments fast enough. March for Life released a statement calling Trump, then running for the presidency, “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement”. The statement continued: “Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion.”

Trump’s campaign immediately went into damage-control mode. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb,” he explained in a statement. The faux pas clearly didn’t derail his campaign, but it demonstrated how carefully crafted anti-abortion talking points usually are. It also suggested that pro-lifers might find a Trump administration politically difficult. However, since his election pro-life politicians seem to have a new confidence.

For instance, some Republicans are now attempting to outlaw abortion even when the mother’s life is at risk. Such a bill already has the support of 20 legislators in Ohio. Meanwhile, on March 19, the governor of Mississippi signed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks – the most restrictive in the country. Iowa is considering a bill that will limit abortions to six weeks: the measure has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill”, because it takes its cure from that milestone of human development.

Pro-life statesmen have undoubtedly been emboldened by the new administration, but not because they expect the more radical bills to pass. Even if the anti-abortion bills are struck down by the lower courts (as they usually are), there is a chance now that one will go to the Supreme Court. And since Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench, there is a chance of a 5-4 victory.

With an ally on the bench, the reward could be even greater than tighter regulations in just one state. Republicans hope that, by bringing such a bill to court, they will be able to change federal abortion laws too. As Iowa state senator Rick Bertrand frankly told Reuters: “We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v Wade – 100 per cent”.

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