2 years after Dobbs, Democratic-led states move to combat abortion bans

Two years after the Supreme Court ended federal protections for abortion care, some Democratic-led states have moved to combat the restrictive laws on the procedure that have been enacted in Republican-led states. 

The efforts from Democratic-led states include shield laws that prohibit patients and providers from facing legal consequences for abortion procedures. 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group which supports reproductive rights, 14 states now have near-total abortion bans, forcing many women to travel out-of-state for the procedure. 

Nearly one in five patients traveled out-of-state for abortion care in the first half of 2023, compared to about one in 10 in 2020, per data released in December by Guttmacher.

In April, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a near-total abortion ban from 1864 can be reinforced. The move sparked major controversy, and last month, Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed into law a bipartisan bill to repeal that 160-year-old ban. 

Amid the uncertainty surrounding abortion access in Arizona, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom responded by signing a bill into law that allows Arizona doctors to temporarily provide their patients abortion care in his neighboring state. 

“Arizona Republicans tried to turn back the clock to 1864 to impose a near-total abortion ban across their state,” Newsom, a surrogate for the Biden campaign, said in a press release at the time. “We refuse to stand by and acquiesce to their oppressive and dangerous attacks on women.” 

Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year signed into law a bill that regulates the usage of license plate readers — providing protections for out-of-state abortion patients. The law makes it illegal to use information obtained from a license plate reader to track down someone seeking an abortion. 

In the first half of 2023, Illinois saw the largest increase in the number of out-of-state patients seeking abortion care of any state, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute. In that period, it saw 18,870 out-of-state patients, more than triple what it saw during the same period in 2020. 

In May 2022, just prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a sweeping bill which protects abortion providers and patients who come to Connecticut for abortion care from legal action. 

New Mexico and Maryland also have laws in place that protect abortion providers from out-of-state investigations.

Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, told CBS News that Republicans have “weaponized state legislatures to ban access to essential reproductive care” since the Dobbs decision. 

“But for every Republican attempt to restrict abortion access, state Democrats have enacted protections and opened the doors to out-of-state patients to receive care,” Williams said in a statement. “The DLCC and our candidates are implementing Democrats’ national agenda at the state level, and the progress made in states reflects how important this ballot level is for ensuring protections for these rights.” 

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee did not respond to requests for comment. 

Mini Timmaraju, president of the advocacy group Reproductive Freedom for All, said she has a great deal of gratitude for what Democratic lawmakers and legislators have done so far, but acknowledged the efforts weren’t enough. 

“It’s patchwork, right?” Timmaraju told CBS News. “We’re creating, like, Band Aid solutions. And again, bless those blue state legislatures and governors, but the only true solution is getting a blue pro-reproductive freedom trifecta at the federal level, to make sure we can codify federal rights abortion.”

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