12 states have 'trigger' laws that will automatically ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade
- SCOTUS will soon hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade.
- Roe v. Wade currently protects a person's right to seek an abortion with limited government intervention.
- 12 states' lawmakers have prepared bills that would completely ban abortions in Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in Roe v. Wade, igniting an ongoing national debate over abortion rights.
On Wednesday, that debate will play out before the court's 6-3 conservative majority, which will consider whether to uphold the 1973 landmark ruling or overturn it.
Currently, abortion is a legal right nationwide until around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which a fetus can survive outside of the womb, otherwise known as viability.
However, if the Supreme Court strikes down abortion rights in this upcoming case, 12 states, including Mississippi and Texas, are set to outlaw abortion through "trigger" laws that would automatically take effect.
Wednesday's arguments concern a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, long before viability. The statute leaves no exceptions for rape or incest, only for medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormality.
The state's sole abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, sued Mississippi over the law and lower courts blocked it from going into effect. But Mississippi Department of Health state health officer Thomas Dobbs appealed the decision and the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in May.
The justices will review a central question: whether state laws banning pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional. A decision on the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, will be handed down by next June.
It's the most consequential abortion case to come before the justices in almost 30 years. The last comparable case was in 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and it upheld Roe, ruling that states cannot impose an "undue burden" on abortion rights.
In recent years many red states have made concerted efforts to erode Roe, advancing laws aimed at prohibiting abortion at an earlier stage than viability. All have failed to take effect, besides in Texas, where a unique ban on abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy stands because it calls on private citizens, rather than state officials, to enforce the law.
Here are the 12 states trigger laws that will make abortion illegal if Roe falls, and how they work.
Mississippi passed its trigger law in 2007, with an exception for cases of medical emergencies in which the mother's life is at risk.
The law also makes an exception for rape, but only "if a formal charge of rape has been filed with an appropriate law enforcement official," according to the bill's text.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that would ban all abortions in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Currently, abortions are banned after six weeks of pregnancy.
If a doctor in Texas were to break the trigger law by providing abortions, they could be sentenced to life in prison or fined $10,000.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned and the law goes into effect, doctors who perform abortions could be sentenced to two to five years in prison, the bill states.
Arkansas lawmakers have had a trigger ban on abortion since February 2019.
If enacted, the law bans all abortions except those needed in the case of a medical emergency.
In February 2019, lawmakers passed House Bill 148 as a trigger ban.
If the legislation takes effect, any doctor who provides an abortion could go to prison for up to five years. The only exception would be for medical emergencies in which the patient could die.
In May 2019, lawmakers passed HB 126. The bill both proposed to ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest, and to ban all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The only exception in that case would be medical emergencies.
Though a judge blocked the eight-week ban from going into effect in August 2019, state legislators say they're hopeful their bills will go into effect at a later date.
North Dakota has had a trigger law banning abortion on the books since 2007, called HB 1466.
Medical emergencies, rape, and incest would be the only exceptions that allow for abortion if the law is enacted.
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill authorizing a trigger ban on abortion in April 2021.
There would be exceptions for medical emergencies, but not rape or incest.
South Dakota's trigger ban on abortion has existed since 2005 and only has exceptions for medical emergencies, if enacted.
Texas lawmakers passed a trigger ban, which has no exceptions for rape or incest, in April 2019.
If it goes into effect, doctors who are found performing abortions could be charged with a felony.