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How blue states are preparing if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Abortion-rights supporters protest in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. California is one of the states that is expanding abortion access to prepare for the possibility of the Supreme Court striking down <em>Roe v. Wade.</em>
Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images
Abortion-rights supporters protest in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. California is one of the states that is expanding abortion access to prepare for the possibility of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade.

Updated May 3, 2022 at 10:18 PM ET

A leaked draft opinion published by Politico suggests that earlier this year, a majority of Supreme Court justices approved overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion across the U.S.

But as the country awaits the official decision from the nation's highest court likely to come in late June, many Democratic-led states have enacted laws to shore up abortion rights at the state level.

The effort is in direct response to the organized campaign to make abortion illegal.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, if Roe were to be overturned, 26 states are "certain or likely to quickly ban abortion to the fullest extent possible."

Some states have so-called "trigger laws" that would take effect and automatically ban or curtail abortion. Most of these laws were enacted during the Trump administration.

Other states have unenforced abortion bans dating to before the Roe v. Wade decision that could once again become enforceable. In some cases, bans that had been blocked by courts could take effect.

"Abortion bans are gaining a lot of attention because there are so many of them and they are so harmful," Elizabeth Nash, the interim associate director of state issues at the Guttmacher Institute, told NPR earlier this year. "It's a little less obvious progressive states are moving to protect abortion rights."

But they are.

States pass legislation solidifying abortion rights

Some states have moved to codify the right to an abortion in state law, rather than rely entirely on Roe.

Sixteen states and Washington, D.C. have laws protecting access to abortion, according to Guttmacher. Four states and D.C. "have codified the right to abortion throughout pregnancy without state interference," the group notes, while 12 others "explicitly permit abortion prior to viability or when necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant person."

Some changes have come recently.

In March, Colorado's legislature approvedthe Reproductive Health Equity Act. The legislation solidifies protections for abortion access within Colorado law. It was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on April 4.

Karen Middleton, the president of Colorado abortion rights group Cobalt, said in a statement: "As abortion access hangs in the balance at the Supreme Court, RHEA ensures these fundamental rights are protected in Colorado State Law."

She said the legislation "should serve as an encouragement to policymakers and advocates in other states that boldly protecting reproductive rights, including abortion rights, can be done, and it's the right thing to do."

In Maryland, lawmakers voted in April to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto and to enact a law allowing nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform abortions. Maryland has had abortion access laws on the books for three decades.

Last week, Connecticut lawmakers voted to expand the types of medical professionals who can provide abortion services, while also shielding residents from being penalized under other states' anti-abortion laws. A similar measure in Washington state protecting against lawsuits enabled by other states' laws takes effect in June.

In January, New Jersey codified abortion access.

And in Vermont, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment during a statewide referendum in November.

Blue states look to fund abortion expansion

Another issue is money. California, Oregon and Washington state have recently moved to expand financial support for abortion access.

"This year, states are really looking to put in place some kind of funding mechanism to support abortion access," Nash said.

Oregon enacted a law protecting abortion access in 2017. But this year, in preparation for a ban in nearby Idaho, the Oregon legislature approved a $15 million allocation in state funds to assist abortion providers, increase training or provide travel funds for women in need.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in March that eliminates out-of-pocket insurance fees for abortion services. Illinois, New York and Oregon have similar laws on the books.

Clinics that provide abortions in the Golden State are hoping to create a "sanctuary" for women seeking abortions. Lawmakers there are considering several proposals to prepare for what they expect will be a rush of patients from other states seeking care.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.
James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.