On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) overturned Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years after it was thrust on our nation. Their decision sent the abortion issue back to each individual state to decide their own laws.
Are preborn babies any safer in America’s Heartland since SCOTUS made their decision?
TRIGGER LAWS PROTECT PREBORN BABIES IN THREE HEARTLAND STATES
Thirteen U.S. states had previously passed “trigger laws” before SCOTUS ended Roe. These state trigger laws were put in place to immediately outlaw abortion when Roe was abolished. Abortions were halted right away in Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. Without delay, their trigger laws protected preborn babies and their mothers.
Due to a North Dakota Judge’s injunction, Missouri and South Dakota are currently the only trigger laws in the Heartland that fully protect preborn children.
NORTH DAKOTA’S TRIGGER LAW HAMPERED BY A SINGLE JUDGE’S DECiSION
While the North Dakota abortion trigger law would have quickly saved preborn babies from abortion, the law has now been temporarily halted by a judge’s injunction. On October 31, 2022, it was reported that Judge Bruce Romanick issued his ruling, stating he will not allow the state’s trigger law to take effect as he believes that there is a “substantial probability” that it will be overturned by a constitutional challenge.
North Dakota’s one remaining abortion site, Red River Women’s Clinic, has closed down and moved across the border into Minnesota, but not before raising well over $1 million dollars on GoFundMe.
Pro-life legislators are at work on legislative remedies to address “differences in state law that some doctors say could hinder care for pregnant patients with life-threatening ailments.” While the injunction stands and pro-life lawmakers work on new legislation, several restrictions remain on abortions. However, preborn children are not protected until after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Because of the ruling of one judge, preborn children in North Dakota are not safe for the foreseeable future.
PREBORN BABIES ARE SAFER IN WISCONSIN – FOR NOW
Prior to Roe’s overturn, Republican legislators in Wisconsin passed a bill in 1996 that required women to receive counseling and wait 24 hours before an abortion. In recent years, lawmakers and then-Governor Scott Walker, legislated that there were to be no abortions after five months of pregnancy. Women must also have an ultrasound before an abortion.
Wisconsin did not specifically have a trigger law in place when Roe ended. However, they immediately became a state that only allows abortions if it is determined that a mother’s life is in serious danger. It is now a felony to perform an abortion for any other reason, and anyone that performs one for any other reason faces up to six years in prison. These abortion restrictions are due to the passage of a law in 1849, one year after Wisconsin became a state. This law was not enforced after the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, called for a special session to address the 1849 law. On October 4, that special session began with the gavel in of legislators. Seconds later, they gaveled out, signaling their unwillingness to stop the1849 law that prohibits most abortions in their state. Republican Assembly Speaker Vos referred to the special session as a “political stunt” by the pro-abortion governor. Will preborn babies remain safe under the now-enforced 1849 pro-life law? That remains to be seen, as Governor Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul also filed a legal complaint against the law.
In November, Wisconsin voters will determine the future fate of preborn babies.
IN NEBRASKA, IOWA, AND MISSOURI, PREBORN BABIES RECEIVE SOME PROTECTIONS
Since Roe ended, many women have been looking to the Heartland states for chemical abortions. Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri top the list of states showing the highest online searches for the abortion pill. All abortions are now illegal in Missouri, due to their trigger law. Abortions throughout the first 20 weeks of pregnancy continue in Nebraska and Iowa.
MOST PREBORN BABIES IN NEBRASKA REMAIN UNSAFE AFTER 20 WEEKS
In most of Nebraska, abortions are legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, three locations have completely banned the practice. The villages of Hayes Center and Stapleton, as well as the city of Blue Hill, are all abortion-free. They are “sanctuary cities for the unborn.”
In November’s election, six more Nebraska towns have the same opportunity to prohibit abortion. Voters in the following cities will decide whether or not abortion will remain legal in their communities: Arnold, Brady, Curtis, Hershey, Paxton, and Wallace.
Natalia Alamdari, reporter for the Flatwater Free Press, has reported that pro-life citizens in at least 10 more Nebraska towns are gathering signatures. Bellevue, an Omaha suburb, is one of them. Notorious late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart runs a shoddy abortion business there. If these additional cities are successful in collecting enough signatures, elections will be held next year to determine whether or not these locations will ban abortions, too.
The state has an informed consent requirement prior to an abortion, requiring detailed information about abortion be shared with each woman. By statute, the law allows abortionists to distance themselves from pro-life materials that they are required to provide to abortion-seeking women.
Before the SCOTUS ruling was official, their pro-life Governor Pete Ricketts promised that he would call a special session to ban abortion were Roe to ever be overruled. A month and a half after Roe was gone, Governor Ricketts announced that it was “deeply saddening” that there would be no special session. He did not have enough votes in their Legislature to protect all preborn children from abortion.
Since Governor Ricketts is term-limited, he will not be serving after this year. It remains unclear if Nebraska will pursue any future abortion restrictions.
IOWA NAMED ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST PRO-LIFE STATES IN 2018
Iowa does have one location that became a “sanctuary city” for preborn children in 2022: the small town of Willey. At this time, it is not known if any other place in Iowa will follow Willey’s lead.
Abortions after 20 weeks were banned in 2017, signed into law by pro-life former Governor Terry Branstad, who resigned early, later that year. Governor Kim Reynolds, then Branstad’s Lt. Governor, assumed the role of Governor. Between the two governors, there was a flurry of pro-life legislative victories in 2017-2018, causing the state to become one of the most pro-life states in America at that time.
Signed into law in those years:
- 20-week abortion ban
- 72-hour waiting period before an abortion (a law that was successfully challenged and did not go into effect)
- Defunding of abortion providers in the state’s Family Planning budget
- A first-of-its-kind Safe Haven Expansion Law
- A ban on the trafficking of preborn baby parts
- Fetal Heartbeat Bill – Considered the strictest law in the nation at the time, this law received an immediate injunction and has still not taken effect. It is currently in the hands of the Iowa Supreme Court.
- Rejection of the Iowa Supreme Court decision allowing parents to sue a doctor for wrongful birth – wrongful life.
In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that Iowa’s constitution secured a woman’s right to an abortion. In a shocking turn of events, and with several new Justices, the state Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 2022, stating that the Iowa Constitution does not give women a right to an abortion. The Court’s decision did not say what Iowa’s standard for abortion should be. It did, however, overturn the district court judge’s decision to block the 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. This law went into effect this past July.
In response to Roe’s fall, Governor Reynolds announced that she would not call for a special session, as other states have done. She expressed she was waiting for two court rulings to be handed down. She asked the Iowa Supreme Court to rehear a lawsuit regarding Iowa’s 24-hour waiting period and a district court to lift the injunction on the state’s heartbeat bill. This legislation, signed into law in 2018, bans abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, at approximately six weeks’ gestation. The law, immediately blocked by the court, allows for several exceptions — incest, rape, when the life of the mother is in jeopardy, and when the abortionist considers the preborn baby has an abnormality “incompatible with life.”
Since Reynolds’ requests were made, the Iowa Supreme Court refused to re-hear the 24-hour waiting period law and the district court denied her request to lift the injunction on the heartbeat bill. In August, after these judicial decisions were announced, the governor asked the Supreme Court to lift the injunction on the heartbeat bill. Their decision has yet to be released.
IOWA IMMEDIATELY BECAME AN ABORTION SANCTUARY WITH ROE’S REVERSAL
Following Roe’s end, Iowa’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood North Central States, began speaking out about “how busy” they were. They stated that Iowa had become a “critical point of access.” Their Sioux City site closed down in 2017, only to reopen a few years later. They now claim there has been an increase in patients from states where abortion has been banned. Sarah Traxler, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States, has said that as more states restrict abortion, this site is “poised to become a critical point of access for Midwestern states.”
Announcing the hiring of “abortion navigators,” they now arrange travel to Iowa for women seeking abortion. A popular Des Moines TV station called this “proactive thinking.” Women are allegedly coming from as far away as Texas and Louisiana. “When we know that with the fall of Roe we’re getting more and more patients from out of state and we’re, you know, kinda the lowest state from people coming up from the south,” said April Clark, senior training and development specialist for Iowa’s Planned Parenthood. These navigators connect women with transportation and finances as needed to travel to Iowa for an abortion.
There have been efforts by pro-life lawmakers to fully pass a constitutional amendment in the Legislature, to eventually allow Iowans a vote on abortion. That path takes a few years to fully accomplish. Legislators did pass the amendment in 2020. It needs to pass through the Legislature again in 2023 or 2024. If successfully approved again, the amendment goes to a public vote, likely on the November 2024 general ballot. If the Iowa Supreme Court does not allow the enforcement of the heartbeat bill, preborn babies will continue to die in large numbers in Iowa.
At this juncture, apart from awaiting a decision from the Iowa Supreme Court, there seems to be no other plan to end abortion in Iowa anytime soon. If the Iowa Supreme Court does not severely limit abortion by allowing the heartbeat bill to take effect, and given Planned Parenthood’s stated efforts, it seems inevitable that abortion rates in Iowa will see a sharp increase this year and in the years to come.
ILLINOIS PREBORN BABIES HAVE LITTLE PROTECTION IN THE WOMB
In 2017, then-Governor Bruce Rauner approved state-funded abortions via Medicaid coverage. Under the leadership of Democrat Governor JB Pritzker, the Illinois Reproductive Health Act (RHA) was enacted in 2019, protecting abortion as a fundamental right for women. Taking it even further, the RHA denies a “fertilized egg, embryo or fetus” “independent rights.”
Previously, abortion was legal until the preborn baby was “viable outside the womb.” In Illinois, a preborn baby’s “viability” was solely determined by the healthcare provider, who would decide if an abortion would protect the woman’s health or life. With the RHA in effect, a fully formed preborn baby can now be aborted at any stage in pregnancy. This includes aborting late-term preborn babies through painful dismemberment abortions while unanesthetized and alive in the womb.
There is no waiting period or informed consent before an abortion in Illinois. In 2021, Governor Pritzker also repealed the law that required abortionists to notify parents or an adult guardian of minors seeking an abortion. This went into effect in June 2022.
2020 is the last time Illinois’ abortion statistics were released; that year, 46,243 abortions were recorded.
PREBORN CHILDREN ARE AT GRAVE RISK IN MINNESOTA
In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that their constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. Despite this, Minnesota did have several protections for preborn children, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and a requirement that both parents had to be notified before a minor girl could have an abortion. Also, only physicians could perform abortions, and after the first trimester, they had to be done in a hospital. These requirements and more were in place until this past July. At that time, a district judge completely stripped away all of these common-sense protections. His broad ruling took immediate effect.
Abortion is now virtually unfettered in Minnesota.
America’s Heartland still has a very long way to go before all preborn babies and their mothers are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
Jenifer Bowen, a long-time leader in the pro-life movement, including a long tenure as CEO of Iowa Right to Life, was diagnosed in 2019 with a lifelong battle of Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. She remains passionate in her defense of preborn babies and their mothers, the infirm and elderly.
Editor’s Note, 11/1/22: This article has been updated with further information on North Dakota since original publication.