With abortion measures, states see chance to challenge Roe v. Wade

AMNA NAWAZ: With new conservative additions
to the U.S. Supreme Court, more and more states are passing laws meant to test the limits
of Roe vs. Wade. The latest, Alabama, where last night the
state Senate passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the country. Inside the Alabama Senate chamber, four hours
of heated debate. CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R), Alabama State Senator:
When that unborn child becomes a person, and we need legal guidance on when that is. VIVIAN DAVIS FIGURES (D), Alabama State Senator:
But that’s not your business. You don’t have to do anything for that child,
but yet you want to make the decision for that woman that that’s what she has to do. CLYDE CHAMBLISS: I want to make the decision
for that child. AMNA NAWAZ: Outside the Statehouse, dozens
of protesters. PROTESTER: When repro rights are under attack,
what do we do? PROTESTERS: Stand up, fight back. AMNA NAWAZ: All of it culminating with an
overwhelming yes vote. MAN: House Bill 314 passes. AMNA NAWAZ: And the nation’s most-restrictive
abortion bill. Alabama’s HB-314 would ban almost every abortion
at every stage of pregnancy. It would make it a felony for doctors to perform
abortions. They could face up to 99 years in prison. The bill has no exceptions for cases of rape
or incest, only when the mother’s health is at risk. Alabama’s bill is the latest attempt to limit
abortion access in the seven months since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme
Court. Since office October, 10 states have passed
some form of restriction that range from fetal heartbeat bills banning abortion after six
weeks, to requiring that fetal tissue be buried or cremated. Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey says
she wants to review the bill before deciding its fate, but the bill’s advocates expect
her to sign it. The new law is scheduled to go into effect
in six months, but will almost certainly be blocked by the courts before then. All this puts Alabama on potential path to
Supreme Court and the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide
more than 45 years ago. Now we take a look two states’ efforts, Alabama
and Vermont, to enact new and opposing abortion laws. I’m joined by Brian Lyman, a political reporter
at The Montgomery Advertiser. He’s in Montgomery, Alabama. Anne Galloway, editor of the VTDigger, joins
us from Burlington, and, via Skype, Mary Ziegler. She’s a law professor at Florida State University
and author of several books on abortion and politics, including “After Roe: The Lost History
of the Abortion Debate.” Welcome to all of you. And thank you for being here. Brian, let’s start with you, where we left
off in the piece, in Alabama, the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. From your reporting, what do we know about
why that bill was crafted the way that it was? BRIAN LYMAN, The Montgomery Advertiser: There
is only within reason this bill was written the way it was. The supporters say they are trying to mount
a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. They believe that this law will create a legal
challenge that they will probably lose in the lower courts, but they think they can
appeal this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they think with the current makeup
of the Supreme Court, they think they can get Roe overturned. AMNA NAWAZ: Mary Ziegler, give us a little
bit of context here. Alabama is not alone in passing some of these
restrictions. A number of states have been making efforts
over a number of years. Give us the landscape. What kinds of bills and restrictions have
been making their way through state legislatures? MARY ZIEGLER, Florida State University College
of Law: Sure. So I think this is more of a long shot, if
you’re looking at what the court is actually likely to do. We have seen so-called heartbeat bills, including
one recently passed in Georgia, all of which ban abortion at roughly the sixth week of
pregnancy. And we have also seen more kind of incremental
legislation that tends to focus on later abortions, including laws that ban abortion at 20 weeks
on the grounds of fetal pain prevention. We have seen laws banning violation and evacuation,
which is the most common second trimester procedure. And the Supreme Court even has a couple of
cases before it right now that it could choose to hear, if it was so inclined, including
a law that was passed in Indiana when Mike Pence was the governor. AMNA NAWAZ: And I want to be clear about this,
Mary Ziegler. A number of these incredibly restrictive bills
that have been pushed more recently, are any of them actually in place? Are they implemented on the ground? MARY ZIEGLER: No, all of them have either
been blocked by a court or haven’t gone into effect. And we wouldn’t expect any of them to go into
effect or not be challenged in a court. So we’re really not talking about any of these
laws being enforced in the near or mid-future. AMNA NAWAZ: Anne Galloway, let’s talk about
Vermont now. We have talked a lot about the abortion restrictions
that have been going into place. It’s activity on the other end of the spectrum
in Vermont. There’s two legislative efforts on the table. Tell us what they do and how they would change
current abortion law in Vermont. ANNE GALLOWAY, Editor, VTDigger: Yes. Right now, Vermont law is silent on abortion. There are no restrictions or permissions in
place. Lawmakers have proposed legislation that passed
overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate, and that Republican Governor Phil Scott is
poised to sign. This state statute would give blanket protection
for abortion access across the state. At the same time, lawmakers have put forward
a constitutional amendment that over the long term would provide more permanent protection
for the woman’s right to choose. AMNA NAWAZ: So, there’s both a state law and
a constitutional amendment effort under way. Why both? ANNE GALLOWAY: Well, that’s because lawmakers
are very nervous about the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the potential
for the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. And they really are developing contingency
plans should that happen, and they’re really belt-and-suspender-ing it here. The state statute gives some temporary protection. They’re worried about a conservative governor
down the road who might put rulemaking in place that could gut funding for abortions
in Vermont or that could restrict abortions through insurance plans and that kind of thing. So, long term, they feel that a constitutional
amendment is the best way to ensure that women are able to access abortions in the future. AMNA NAWAZ: Mary Ziegler, we hear a lot about
the restrictions that are being put into place. Is Vermont alone in these kinds of efforts? Are there other states that have been pushing
through, trying to enshrine protections for abortion rights? MARY ZIEGLER: Yes. New York, obviously, is probably the best
known, because its Reproductive Health Act attracted so much controversy. There 10 other states that already have protections
for abortion rights on their statute books or in their state constitutions. Other state courts are introducing protections. For example, the Kansas Supreme Court recently
issued a decision strongly protecting abortion in that state’s constitution. And there are other states that are considering
measures now, including New Mexico. So we probably haven’t seen the end of efforts
like the ones in Vermont to kind of create a world in which abortion is protected in
some states after Roe is gone. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Brian, back in Alabama, I
want to be clear about this, though. The Republican legislators who voted for this
did not include any exception for rape or incest in this. So they did that only with the assumption
that this law would never actually go into place. Is that right? BRIAN LYMAN: The supporters of the bill are
arguing this is purely a legal challenge to Roe vs. Wade. And they have kind of tried to hedge the effects
of this bill by arguing that, if Roe were overturned, the state could come back and
do its own abortion law which could include these exceptions for rape and incest. The problem is, is that there are two — well,
there are two problems. One is that Alabama last fall approved a constitutional
amendment that said there was no right to an abortion in the Alabama constitution, which
seems like it would make it more difficult to address these exceptions in a post-Roe
world. The other — the other issue here is that
this legislature overwhelmingly voted to keep those rape and incest exceptions out of the
bill. And these were not close votes. So it’s very hard to see how this current
legislature, at the very least, would want to take up this issue again, after voting
so overwhelmingly to not include exceptions for sexual assault in this bill. AMNA NAWAZ: And, very quickly, I wanted to
ask you. We hear a lot about the — and we saw a lot
of the protesters right outside of the Alabama Statehouse, the pushback against the restrictions. Has there been any pushback in Vermont against
the effort to protect abortion rights there? ANNE GALLOWAY: Yes, there has been pushback
from the Vermont Right to Life Committee and from Bishop Christopher Coyne, the head of
the Catholic Church here in Vermont. But lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the abortion
rights legislation that I mentioned earlier. And there were Republicans and Democrats alike
who backed it. And, in point of fact, 70 percent of Vermonters
in a recent Pew Research poll said that they support a woman’s right to choose. So there is broad-level support here. It’s not a politically polarizing issue, as
it is in other states. AMNA NAWAZ: Mary Ziegler, this is the million-dollar
question now. Of course, all these restrictive efforts that
have been going into place, is this a question of if or when one of these will get before
the Supreme Court? MARY ZIEGLER: I think it’s a question of when
the Supreme Court will reconsider Roe v. Wade. I don’t think it’s anything like a sure thing
that the Supreme Court will ever consider one of these extreme laws. I think it’s telling that you had figures
like Pat Robertson coming out and saying, this is too far, and the Supreme Court won’t
like this kind of law. We know that Chief Justice Roberts is deeply
concerned about the reputation of the court and about optics, about keeping the court
above the political fray, or at least appearing to do so. We know that Brett Kavanaugh, during his confirmation
hearings, talked a lot about respect for precedent. And it would require the court to really undo
decades of precedent in one decision, with really very little advanced warning that that
was going to happen. And that seems to be kind of a long shot. I think we’re much more likely to see the
court unravel Roe more slowly by upholding kind of a series of more incremental restrictions
and offering some hints that Roe is not long for this world, and then getting rid of Roe
entirely several years down the road, so more kind of like a death of 1,000 cuts than something
sudden, which is what Alabama lawmakers seem to have in mind. AMNA NAWAZ: And is there a sense of a timeline
of when that could happen? MARY ZIEGLER: We don’t really know. I mean, it could start soon, or the court
might want to stay out of abortion altogether for a few years. I mean, I would guess in the next five years,
but it’s really unpredictable. It’s possible that the court could even uphold
a law like the Alabama law. I wouldn’t put money on it, but it’s not out
of the question. I think we’re looking more, though, at a series
of judicial decisions over a number of years, not something that would happen in the next
12 months. AMNA NAWAZ: Mary Ziegler of Florida State
University, Anne Galloway from Vermont’s VTDigger, and Brian Lyman from Alabama’s Montgomery
Advertiser, thanks to all of you for being here. MARY ZIEGLER: Thanks for having us. ANNE GALLOWAY: Thank you. BRIAN LYMAN: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: And an update on this story. Just moments ago, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey
signed that abortion bill into law.

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