Long Reads

How New York, Illinois and Nevada are fighting to protect abortion rights

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee
Abortion law protesters

Earlier this year, New York moved to legalise reproductive rights, as set forth in the landmark Roe v. Wade case. This is what the state, and others including Illinois and Nevada, are doing to protect abortion rights for its citizens.

All across America, states are voting on draconian abortion law reforms that threaten the right to safe, legal terminations.

These laws, known as the Heartbeat Bill, promote an abortion ban from as early as six weeks – when most women don’t even know that they are pregnant. The number of states that have restricted abortion rights is eight, including Alabama, Georgia, Iowa and Ohio. A further 13 states are considering new laws.

Some of these laws are being defeated in appeals in each state’s respective district courts. All of them are being challenged in the court of public opinion by those protesting abortion bans. But some other US states are moving to protect abortion rights for their citizens by codifying them in the face of rising support of the Heartbeat Bill.

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One of those states is Illinois, which voted on 1 June to pass a bill enshrining abortion as a “fundamental right”. The bill also overturned a previous law that required women receive consent from their spouses and pass a waiting period before they could access an abortion.

Protests against the new abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia

“We’re not going back,” Senator Melinda Bush, one of the biggest supporters of the bill, said. “We’re not going back to coat hangers, we’re not going back to dying. We’re not going back. And I am proud to say Illinois is a beacon for women’s rights, for human rights.”

Also working to protect abortion rights is New York, which passed a reproductive rights bill in January 2019. Specifically, their new bill widens the number of professionals who can perform abortions (previously, it was limited to just doctors, now it can include nurses, assistants and midwives) and legalising abortions performed after 24 weeks in the cases of danger to a mother’s health and non-viable fetuses.

“Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion,” the bill reads. 

trump supreme court abortion brett kavanaugh roe v wade women protesting naral

Pro-choice activists in the States, where pro-life organisations are using technology to target women seeking terminations

Unsurprisingly, the introduction of this bill angered many conservative politicians. Donald Trump described it as promoting “on demand” abortion, while others have suggested that by signing the bill into law New York prompted the introduction of the Heartbeat Bill in Georgia and Alabama in early 2019. 

But the fact still stands, New York, Illinois and Nevada’s lawmakers are worried about the way reproductive rights, as codified in Roe v. Wade, are being infringed upon by laws like the Heartbeat Bill. And they decided to do something about it.

So what is New York’s abortion law?

Compared to several other states in America, New York’s stance on abortion is progressive. Women over the age of 18 can seek an abortion on their own, without their partner or parent’s consent. Abortion is not in the penal code, so it does not carry any criminal penalty. Abortions are only illegal when they are performed after 24 works of pregnancy – unless the termination fulfils the aforementioned exceptions of threatening a mother’s life or the fetus’ viability.

Trump has sp0ken out against the widening of abortion laws.

Illinois’s new laws are similar to New York’s, as are the ones recently mooted in states including New Mexico and Rhode Island that move to further protect abortion rights. In Nevada, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak signed the ‘Trust Nevada Women Act’ on 1 June to remove criminal penalties for abortion and has changed the way that abortions are discussed with women by doctors and physicians. A second bill increased funding to family planning organisations in the state by $6 million.

“Nevada has a long history of trusting the women of our state to make their own reproductive health care decisions and protecting the right to reproductive freedom,” Sisolak said.

“I have been disappointed by the recent uptick in efforts in other states to restrict women’s right to choose,” Sisolak added. “And I am especially proud today to be a Nevadan, where we protect a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body.” 

Images: Getty 


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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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