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With Roe v. Wade Overturned, Some States Fight Back

Health and Gender Policy Brief #157 | By: Geoffrey Small | July 12, 2022

Header photo taken from: Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty Images

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Photo taken from: The Pew Research Center

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Policy Summary

According to the Pew Research Center, the total number of abortion providers in the United States has decreased since 1982. The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade may lead to further decreases and declining accessibility. On July 8th, 2022, the Biden administration responded to the Supreme Court’s decision with an executive order. Biden’s executive action will include establishing a task force on reproductive health care access, expanding contraception, promoting public education, improving access to legal aide, protecting healthcare information, and ensuring interstate safety from Republican states’ draconian abortion laws. 

Despite these efforts, President Biden stated that the best solution is for Congress to “codify Roe as federal law.” However, the possibility of bipartisan  federal legislation is uncertain. Some state Governors have already signed legislation and executive orders to fight back against the 19 Republican states that enacted 108 abortion restrictions in 2021 and 11 Republican states that enacted 42 additional abortion restrictions since 2022. 

California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have already authorized protections for providers and out-of-state patients. Exploring these progressive state strategies can provide some insight into how they are targeting new Republican state restrictions, as well as the overall limitations when compared to a comprehensive federal law.

Policy Analysis

All photos taken from: The Associated Press

California   

Gavin Newsome, 40th governor of California since 2019.

On June 24th, Governor Gavin Newson signed California State Legislation AB1666. The new law is designed to protect providers and patients from civil liability issues resulting from state laws, such as Missouri’s, which allow citizens to sue their residents if they receive an out-of-state abortion. 

California will effectively block any civil litigation related to these issues to be heard in their courts.

New Jersey  

Phil Murphy, 56th governor of New Jersey since 2018.

The State of New Jersey focused more on disrupting out-of-state criminal prosecution. On July 1st, Governor Phil Murphy signed S2642 and S2633. S2642 prevents other states from extraditing individuals who are providing or receiving abortion care and services. S2633 ensures that medical records and physician licenses are protected from states or anti-abortion groups pursuing information for prosecution. 

Also, this law prohibits any state employee or agency from cooperating with other states that are pursuing criminal charges related to providing or receiving reproductive healthcare.

Massachusetts  

Charlie Baker, 72nd governor of Massachusetts since 2015.

The Massachusetts Republican Governor, Charlie Baker, issued an executive order instead of coordinating with state legislature to pass a law. Baker’s Executive Order, which was made effective on June 24th, prohibits executive agencies from assisting other states seeking criminal or civil charges for providing or receiving reproductive health services. The order also protects physicians from losing their license, and prohibits the Governor’s office from extraditing individuals for abortion procedures that are legal in State of Massachusetts. 

This executive order may seem more comprehensive in its language, as it has similar criminal protections to New Jersey’s law and civil protections like California’s. However, one can argue that the scope of an executive order is fundamentally prohibited when compared to state or federal legislation. Like President Biden’s executive action, Baker’s order is restricted to employees in executive departments. It fails to include a comprehensive state employee restriction like the legislation enacted in New Jersey. Also, executive orders can be easily reversed when a new administration takes office, unlike legislation that requires a majority vote.

Despite these efforts to protect individuals from the wave of restrictions that Republican states are implementing, President Biden’s observations on the most effective measure still stands. Congress must pass a national law that prevents Republican state’s from prohibiting access to abortion and reproductive health care. Calling your U.S Congressional representatives and demanding laws protecting reproductive rights is essential. Donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood will help coordinate legal action and national advocacy for better universal reproductive rights.

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