Several states controlled by Republicans are considering banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy as soon as this week in a move that is causing division within the conservative movement, Politico reported Wednesday.
The states are planning to approve bills based on a Mississippi law that conservatives are confident the Supreme Court will soon rule as constitutional, but critics in the anti-abortion movement say that is not enough, and GOP-controlled legislatures should be following the lead of Texas, which has signed a new law restricting abortions as early as six weeks.
Lawmakers in the states advancing 15-week bans say they are taking a politically and legally safer approach, even if it means the vast majority of abortions in their states could still take place, because they are concerned the Supreme Court could eventually undo the Texas law, which faces multiple legal challenges and less support among the public.
"States don't want to pass laws that are going to be struck down; they don't want an exercise in futility," Denise Harle, the senior counsel for the anti-abortion group Alliance Defending Freedom, told Politico. "The prudence of doing 15 weeks right now, when a green light for them is likely, is clear."
But Kristi Hamrick, the spokesperson for Students for Life of America, said "we respectfully disagree" with those that "believe we should proceed cautiously and strategically," adding "we want to see less incrementalism. This is a time to move in for the win."
Abortion-rights activists are very concerned the goalposts are changing for the roughly 24 weeks allowed to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade, according to Politico.
Jessica Arons, a senior policy council with the ACLU, cited Texas-style six-week bans that have been introduced in Arizona and Florida but have not yet advanced, explaining, "then, when they ultimately pass the 15-week bill, it allows them to position it as a reasonable compromise. They're moving the Overton window and pushing the idea of what is an acceptable center."
Such thinking can be seen among several leaders of GOP-led states. For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who indicated he intends to sign the 15-week abortion ban expected to pass as early as this week, said the bill was "very reasonable" and "a lot of people would be happy with that."
West Virginia GOP Del. Ruth Rowan called her 15-week legislation "a beginning" and "a good start."
In another example of this line of thinking, Arizona GOP state Sen. Nancy Barto on the Senate floor last week said, while she believes "every life should be protected," 15 weeks is a "common sense limit" and a "step in the right direction."
Olivia Cappello, who works on state policy fights with Planned Parenthood, bemoaned this tactic.
"The six-week bans have generated a lot of outrage and protest, so when they pull back with a 15-week ban, it flies under the radar a little more," she told Politico. "But any sort of arbitrary limitation on what you can and cannot do with your body and what decisions you can make about your pregnancy has a terrible impact on people and the children they already have."
Some groups on the right are urging lawmakers to wait until the Supreme Court issues a decision – and states know exactly what the standard will be – before passing any abortion laws so they do not get bogged down in costly legal battles.
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