The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24th triggered immediate bans on abortion in several states, which had put in place laws primed to shutter abortion clinics within their borders in anticipation of the ruling.
The new law of the land, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, gives each state the power to deny access to abortion services. An estimated 36 million people were immediately affected, as the so-called “trigger laws” took effect (though a Louisiana judge on Monday put that state’s ban on hold). Other states, however, are expanding access.
Which states are abortion ‘safe havens’?
At least 16 states and Washington D.C. plan to continue to protect abortion rights on the state level.
Several of those states–California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington-have been strengthening abortion protections to help meet a rise in demand by individuals who might travel from out-of-state for care.
What abortion safe haven states can—and can’t do.
State legislatures have the power to bolster abortion access in several ways–directing more funding towards abortion clinics; requiring health insurance plans to cover procedures; or expanding the type of medical professionals who are allowed to provide abortion..
For example, Oregon lawmakers this year allocated $15 million dollars through the Oregon Reproductive Equity Fund to help pay the travel expenses for people coming from states with strict abortion laws. California and Maryland both recently passed laws to ensure that abortion costs will be covered by insurance providers. Four states have expanded the pool of medical professionals who can provide abortion, allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to administer abortions.
But while states are working to cover costs and expand access, there is still little legal protection in place for those who cross state lines for an abortion. Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that protects individuals and providers who travel for abortions from being charged under other states more restrictive laws–by modifying the state’s extradition statutes and and preventing an out-of-state patient’s medical records from being disclosed.
What could happen next
Texas’s abortion ban provides a look at what’s to come for safe haven states. In the four months after Texas banned almost all abortions after six weeks, Planned Parenthood said its clinics in neighboring states saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients. Though politicians in a state might promise continued abortion access for all who seek it, providing it will depend on the capacity of the abortion centers, which will need more funding and medical professionals to keep up with the rise in demand.
There’s also the question of whether states with abortion bans will move to punish traveling across state lines to receive an abortion. Missouri proposed a law that would that would allow individuals to sue anyone who helps help a patient cross state lines for an abortion, though the law was later blocked.
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