(The Center Square) – Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws or constitutional provisions protecting abortion, according to reports published by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
One report identifies 22 states that have legalized abortion through passing new laws, or by state statute or constitution. Another lists 11 states whose constitutions protect abortion. Both reports include overlap of some states, but combined, a total of 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized abortion rights.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws legalizing abortion: Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, according to an analysis, published in April.
Seven states legalize abortion through state statutes or state constitutions: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Eleven state constitutions protect abortion access: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico, according to a May analysis.
“The right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy is core to life, liberty and equality – all rights protected under the U.S. Constitution. Human rights principles and international and comparative law recognize that abortion must be legal and accessible,” the center, which has litigated for abortion rights for decades, argues.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned two landmark abortion rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, returning the abortion issue to the states to decide.
In Dobbs v. Jackson, it ruled 6-3 that no constitutional right exists to have an abortion, overruled Roe and Casey and said, “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
“Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Casey perpetuated its errors, calling both sides of the national controversy to resolve their debate, but in doing so, Casey necessarily declared a winning side. Those on the losing side – those who sought to advance the State’s interest in fetal life – could no longer seek to persuade their elected representatives to adopt policies consistent with their views. The Court short-circuited the democratic process by closing it to the large number of Americans who disagreed with Roe.”
“The decision is wrong” the center argues; it “decimated the right to abortion in the United States.”
In its more recent report, it highlights seven state supreme court rulings on cases it’s litigated in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, and New Mexico. In these cases, the courts ruled in favor of abortion access, in general, due to interpretations of respective state constitutional provisions pertaining to personal autonomy, right to privacy, or equal treatment.
The Alaska Supreme Court, for example, held that the state “must treat the decision to carry a pregnancy to term and abortion as legally equivalent choices,” according to the analysis.
The Arizona Supreme Court expanded access to abortion for low-income pregnant women by requiring its Medicaid program to fund abortions when the mother’s life was in danger. It also held that limiting state funding for abortion violated the equal privileges and immunities clause of the Arizona Constitution.
The Florida Supreme Court has held that a state constitutional provision ensuring right to privacy includes abortion access.
The Kansas Supreme Court has held that “‘natural rights’ protect ‘personal autonomy,’ including the right to abortion which is essential to bodily integrity, human dignity, and self-determination.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that privacy rights require the state to fund abortion.
The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that its state constitution’s privacy provisions include “a right of ‘procreative autonomy.’”
The New Mexico Supreme Court has held that restricting abortion access discriminates against women and violates the state constitution’s Equal Rights Amendment.
By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor