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What You Need to Know About Anti-Abortion “Trigger Laws” and Which States Have Them

A protester at a pro-abortion rally hold a sign reading "BANS OFF OUR BODIES"

After over 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. What this means that is the constitutional, national protection of abortion rights is gone and the power now lies with the states to either protect or outlaw abortion access, and many states are already primed to strip those rights away rather than protect them. Sadly, we’ve known this day was coming since early May when the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked. Still, that hasn’t lessened the shock, grief, and outrage as reproductive rights take an egregious hit.

Meanwhile, there may not be much time for processing, as multiple states will be moving quickly to ban or severely restrict abortion. According to research from Guttmacher Institute, there are a total of 22 states that already have legislation in place that will make them likely to ban/restrict abortion. These states have either “trigger laws,” pre-Roe abortion bans that are still on the books as laws, or bills proposing a six-week ban on abortions. It is the 13 states with trigger laws in place that will have the fastest track to banning abortion.

What are trigger laws?

Trigger law is a term used to denote any law that is unenforceable, but could potentially become enforceable if a change in circumstances occurred. Hence, there are states that created abortion trigger laws in anticipation of Roe v. Wade getting overturned. They created laws banning abortion, but these laws obviously weren’t enforceable under Roe vs. Wade. Essentially, these states already prepared laws banning abortion so that they will go into effect almost immediately, now that Roe has been overturned.

Which states have trigger laws & when will they be active?

As mentioned above, 13 states currently have trigger laws. These states are: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Illinois used to be among the trigger law states, but repealed its trigger law in 2017. All of the 13 states that still have their trigger laws in place will be the first to ban abortion. In fact, Kentucky and Louisiana’s trigger laws already went into effect, and abortion is banned in those states. South Dakota’s trigger law will also go into effect before the end of the day on June 24, 2022.

Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah must wait until a governor or district attorney formally certifies that the trigger laws are now active. Most of these states are expected to get that certification quickly. Mississippi must wait 10 days after it receives its certification before the trigger laws go into effect. Meanwhile, Wyoming will wait 5 days after receiving certification from its governor before its trigger law takes effect. Lastly, the trigger laws of Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas will be active in 30 days.

So, the effect of Roe‘s overturning is already being felt. In 30 days, abortion will be banned in 13 states. In just these states alone, tens of thousands of women will be impacted by the abortion bans. What’s terrifying is that these are just the states with head starts on abortion bans. There are still likely to be more states that will follow these 13 with abortion bans.

(featured image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.