Florida and Kentucky become the latest states to pass new restrictive abortion laws

Restrictive abortion laws continue to pass in state legislatures across the country. Florida signed a 15-week abortion ban into law on Thursday soon after Kentucky’s new abortion bill was implemented, one that opponents say effectively shuts down all abortion access. Shefali Luthra, a health reporter for The 19th, joins John Yang to discuss.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    State legislatures across the country continue to pass new restrictive abortion laws. Just today, Florida's governor signed a 15-week abortion ban into law. That comes right after Kentucky's new abortion bill was implemented, one that opponents say effectively shuts down all abortion access in the state.

    John Yang has more.

  • John Yang:

    Amna, Kentucky's law took effect yesterday after the state's Republican-controlled legislature overruled Democratic Governor Andy Beshear's veto.

    Both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood immediately asked a federal judge to block the new law, saying it violates the current Supreme Court limits on what states may do about abortion.

    Shefali Luthra is a health reporter for The 19th. That's the nonprofit online news organization that focuses on the intersection of gender, politics and policy.

    Shefali, thanks so much for being with us.

    A lot of provisions in this bill. What are the most salient things in this bill? What does it — what exactly does it do?

    Shefali Luthra, The 19th News: So, you're right.

    This bill is 60 pages. It is absolutely mammoth. And it's gotten headlines for its 15 week ban, for restrictions on medication abortion, for new requirements for minors who want to receive abortions. But, arguably the most important thing it's done is, it has imposed all of these new regulations on how abortion clinics operate, requiring them to publish the names of all the medical providers who perform abortions, requiring them to register different processes with the state under programs that don't yet exist.

    The restrictions are so much under programs that aren't really enforceable yet that the clinics have no choice at this point but to stop performing abortions because they have no way to comply.

  • John Yang:

    So, the two outpatient abortion providers in Kentucky, you say they have had to stop. And what's this doing to women in Kentucky who want to terminate their pregnancies?

  • Shefali Luthra:

    There are no clinic-based options for abortions at this point in Kentucky, because you're right. There's Planned Parenthood and there's EMW.

    Hospitals perform some abortions, but it's a really tiny fraction, maybe a dozen out of more than 3,000 abortions done every year. So if you live in Kentucky at this point and you want an abortion, really, your only option is to travel out of state. The next nearest places are Indiana, maybe Ohio, maybe Tennessee, but those can be long, expensive journeys.

    And an abortion is already a very expensive, inherently unplanned expense.

  • John Yang:

    Already, today, we saw not only this law goes into effect, but, in Florida, Governor DeSantis signed a 15-week ban on abortion.

    How do these things fit in as — to what states are doing as we wait for the Supreme Court to hand down its abortion ruling before summer?

  • Shefali Luthra:

    What we're seeing is, in particular, Republican leaders of states are trying a variety of approaches to try and restrict abortion as much as they think is feasible in their states.

    Governor DeSantis of Florida is particularly interesting, because it seems that the appetite maybe isn't there for a total ban. They're trying to suggest that maybe a 15-week ban could be more palatable. A 15-week ban is what's being debated in front of the Supreme Court right now.

    What we will note is that both sides have a lot of issues with even that as a restriction right. A 15-week ban means, if you have a fetal anomaly discovered later in pregnancy, or if you have lesser means, had to travel further to get an abortion, you may not make it in time.

  • John Yang:

    And we should note that the Kentucky law has no exemptions whatsoever for rape or incest.

    What's — and you talk about the — sort of the palatability of various cutoffs for these laws. What's been the reaction or the sense among the people in Kentucky during this debate, during the veto, during the override of the veto?

  • Shefali Luthra:

    Yesterday, it was such a powerful day, and you saw emotions running really high on both sides.

    The Republicans putting forth this bill, many of them really believe that it's important and they were talking about it as if it — it could save lives, right? That's the argument they're making.

    And then you heard Democrats, who talked. One started crying telling the story of a woman she met who had a pregnancy that she couldn't carry to term, that the fetus didn't have a working heartbeat. And she spoke about the impact that it was having on cases like these, where you know you need an abortion and you can't get one.

    There were protesters outside the legislature chanting "Bans Off Our Bodies." And they were so loud that, at least at one point, the lawmakers had to ask each other to speak louder to be heard.

  • John Yang:

    And all these states sort of acting or trying to take action ahead of the Supreme Court, what — tell us what — in Kentucky, in particular, what happens if the Supreme Court — this law is in effect, or it's in effect for now.

    But if the Supreme Court were to end abortion rights, what happens then?

  • Shefali Luthra:

    Kentucky, like so many states, has what's called a trigger law. And that law is written so that it would take effect if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned.

    It would essentially ban all abortions in the state. So we'd go from what's currently, right, a de facto absence of abortion to an actual complete ban on the procedure.

  • John Yang:

    Shefali Luthra from the 19th, thank you very much.

  • Shefali Luthra:

    Thank you for having me.

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