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Abortion laws: A state-by-state update 

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If you were flabbergasted by May’s news that Alabama passed a law effectively banning abortions, and when other states approved “heartbeat laws” outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (usually around six weeks into a pregnancy), you may be wondering what’s going on now.

Since these laws appear to violate the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, some have speculated that the conservative lawmakers behind them hope the court will reconsider that landmark decision protecting a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. But, so far, the Supreme Court has not indicated it will hear cases on the state bans.

Likewise, advocates including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have not been able to strike down any of the laws passed this year. But none have gone into effect. “Heartbeat laws” in two states, Kentucky and Mississippi, have been temporarily blocked in federal court. (Louisiana passed a law similar to Mississippi’s, which becomes effective should the court uphold that law.) Abortion rights advocates hope to permanently strike down those laws, as they’ve succeeded in doing in previous years in Iowa and North Dakota.

Barring a court intervention, Ohio’s “heartbeat law” likely will be the first to go into effect. After July 1, abortions will be banned after six weeks, except when the mother’s life is in danger. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Doctors who defy it could face up to a year in prison.

Missouri’s abortion law bans all abortions after eight weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, and comes with a prison sentence of five to 15 years for physicians who violate it. The law goes into effect Aug. 28.

Alabama’s law, the most restrictive in the country, is set to take effect Nov. 16. It bans all abortions — even in cases of rape or incest — except when there’s a serious risk to the mother. Physicians who violate the law face up to 99 years in prison.

Finally, Georgia’s law, which bans abortions after six weeks, takes effect Jan. 1. In cases of rape or incest where the victim has filed a police report, abortions can be performed at up to 20 weeks. Violators (presumably doctors) get a prison sentence of one to 10 years.

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What about Colorado? Unlike in New York, Illinois and several other states that have recently passed legislation greatly expanding access to abortion, the Centennial State has not prioritized passing laws to strengthen protections.

But Colorado’s abortion laws are considered “pro-choice.” Here, women can obtain outpatient abortions for up to 26 weeks after pregnancy begins, and up to 34 weeks in cases involving fetal anomalies, genetic disorders and severe medical issues. (A full-term pregnancy is usually about 40 weeks.)

Colorado does prohibit minors from having the procedure without parental consent (unless they obtain a judicial waiver), and prohibits the use of state funding to pay for abortions — meaning the procedure is not covered for Medicaid recipients and state employees.

At a recent event, the Independent asked Gov. Jared Polis whether laws protecting abortion rights would be a legislative priority for him next year with the possibility of a Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade.

He had this to say: “It’s a little bit speculative on what the Court may or may not do, but ... we have in Colorado access to reproductive health services, and there were not any bills that passed that would have in any way gotten in the way of that this session.”

With Democrats in control of the state House, Senate and governor’s mansion, it’s unlikely that abortion opponents could pass any version of a “heartbeat bill,” though they normally try every year and are voted down immediately. And state voters have soundly rejected three ballot initiatives redefining a “person” to include an unborn fetus.

Colorado anti-abortion advocates are now pushing for a ballot initiative to ban abortions after 22 weeks. They must collect 124,632 valid signatures by August to put the question to voters in November.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court recently let Trump administration rules go into effect that prohibit taxpayer-funded health clinics from advocating, encouraging or promoting abortion.

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