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Three New Abortion Trigger Bans Went Into Effect Today

Pro-choice activists protest during a rally

When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health, overturning both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, it opened for door for a whole bunch of states to start enforcing what were, until that point, unconstitutional bans. Whether they were laws passed pre-Roe or “trigger laws” passed after Roe, lots of states had laws on the books that were technically active but unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.

Some of those trigger bans and old laws took effect immediately when Dobbs was handed down. Others require formal certification, which, in some states, can take at least 30 days. Idaho, Texas, and Tennessee all had their laws certified Thursday, putting their bans into effect immediately.

The laws passed in these three states are excessively cruel. Texas already had a full ban in place but this new law increases the criminal penalties for abortion providers, making it a first or second-degree felony to perform an abortion, with punishment of up to life in prison.

“It’s clear that with abortion already banned, the point of this new trigger law is one thing—cruelty,” Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes said in a statement. It is cruelty towards the doctors who could be subject to life in prison for providing health care. It is cruelty towards patients experiencing miscarriage or pregnancy complications who are now at risk of being denied a life-saving procedure.”

In Idaho and Tennessee, abortion is now fully banned at any stage of pregnancy. There are extremely vague exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the pregnant person, and an Idaho court ruled Wednesday in the lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice, stating that the state’s ban cannot preempt the federal mandate allowing emergency abortions to preserve the health (not just the life) of the pregnant person. But these are small comforts in a state that has otherwise outlawed a basic and entirely necessary medical procedure, and they put an immense burden on abortion providers who have to decide whether a court might agree with their judgement about how at-risk a patient’s health is—something that seems all too open to debate in the vast majority of cases.

Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, nails that sentiment, telling reporters, “The law will make the doctor second guess their medical training and expertise when choosing a treatment plan or risk a felony criminal conviction. Now, hospitals and lawyers will be weighing in on life and death scenarios.”

All of this is entirely unnecessary and cruel, which is, of course, exactly the point.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.