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Activists Around the Country Aggressively Working to Criminalize Abortion and Reverse Roe; Since 2004, 17 States have considered 38 Abortion Bans

Center for Reproductive Rights Releases 2007 "What if Roe Fell?" Report; Groundbreaking Polling Shows A Majority of Americans Believe Roe is Vulnerable

WASHINGTON, D.C.- According to legal analysis conducted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision, is under attack like never before with activists using new strategies at both the state and federal level. Beyond the rise in abortion restrictions the country has seen in recent years, "What if Roe Fell?" documents the surge in anti-choice activists' attempts to criminalize abortion at every stage of a woman's pregnancy; analyzes the reasons for this trend; and arms citizens to fight back.

"Across the country, a dangerous, but largely undetected movement is laying the foundation for a post-Roe world in which abortion would once again be a crime," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "And yet, Americans are virtually unaware of these stealth efforts. This is a frightening reality that should sound the alarm for all Americans who care about women's human rights."

Anti-choice activists have introduced a new two-pronged strategy. First, they advance immediate bans that are designed to create a vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. At the same time, they are pushing a new weapon-bans-in-waiting-which lay the foundation now for abortion to be criminalized immediately after Roe is overturned. These bans would criminalize abortion the instant Roe is overturned. Because they are not immediate, they generate few challenges when introduced or enacted, but their potential impact is extraordinary.

"What if Roe Fell?" documents these efforts since 2004. Among the key findings are:

  • In the last three years, we've seen the states introduce the largest number of bills to ban abortion in all stages of pregnancy since the early 1990s. Seventeen states have introduced 38 bans-bans-in-waiting and immediate bans. 
  • Four states - Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota - have enacted abortion bans-in-waiting. Another five states - Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah - introduced bans-in-waiting.
  • Fourteen states have introduced immediate bans, many introducing measures multiple times: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia. South Dakota enacted such a ban in 2006, but it was repealed by referendum.

"This shocking trend is especially damaging to the poorest of women living in states where abortion access is already severely limited," said Katherine Grainger, director of the state program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Now that we've sounded the alarm, we are calling on states to put legal protections in place before it's too late."

Majority of Americans Believe Roe is Vulnerable

In public opinion research conducted late last month by Lake Research Partners for the Center, Americans say they want abortion to remain a federally protected right. Their support for Roe is clear. And they recognize that Roe is threatened. What they don't seem to know is what would happen if the decision were overturned, how vulnerable many of them would be to losing their right to legal abortion, depending on what state they live in. Key findings are:

  • Sixty-three percent of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade is increasingly vulnerable under the current Supreme Court.
  • While they recognize the vulnerability of Roe v. Wade, Americans are largely unaware of legislative efforts underway at the state level: 60 percent say they know little or nothing about state-level efforts.
  • The majority of Americans - 58 percent - do not know what abortion laws exist in their state.
  • Americans are more likely to oppose a Supreme Court decision to send abortion rights to the states to decide, than to support it, with 42 percent expressing opposition compared to 25 percent in support.

Among the other key findings from the "What if Roe Fell?" report:

  • 21 States at High Risk to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  • 9 States at Moderate Risk: Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
  • 20 States Likely to Protect abortion rights in the advent of a Roe reversal: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
  • Seven of the 10 poorest states in the nation are highly likely to ban abortion within a year of a Roe reversal: two of these states, Mississippi and Louisiana, have already enacted bans-in-waiting. Banning abortion will have the most devastating impact on low-income women-who often struggle just to secure the resources to pay for an abortion. Notably, many of the poorest states also contain large populations of color. In a post-Roe world, poor women and poor women of color will have the most difficulty obtaining an abortion.

About the Public Opinion Research

Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached 1,000 registered voters nationwide. Telephone numbers for the survey were drawn from a random digit dial sample (RDD). The margin of error is +/-2.7%.

About the Center for Reproductive Rights

The Center for Reproductive Rights uses the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental right that all governments are obligated to protect, respect and fulfill.

More information, including copies of "What if Roe Fell?" is available at www.reproductiverights.org.