Republican states are longing to challenge Roe v Wade
Never has the war sparked by Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion a constitutional right, been as intense as it is now. Lawmakers in conservative states are passing ”heartbeat” bills banning abortion from the moment a heartbeat is detectable, around the sixth week of pregnancy—flagrantly violating Roe. To defend abortion rights, some liberal states are extending them, making it easier to have abortions in the third trimester. That has encouraged President Donald Trump to mount a fresh assault on late abortions, which he routinely characterises as babies being “ripped” from their mothers’ wombs.
The most uncompromising attack on Roe has been launched in Alabama. On May 14th the state’s Senate passed a bill that would, in effect, ban abortion outright. Signed into law by the governor the following day, it constitutes the harshest abortion legislation passed in America in half a century. “The heartbeat bills don’t really tackle what Roe is about,” says Eric Johnston, president of the Alabama Pro-life Coalition, alluding to Roe’s protection of abortion until a fetus is viable, at around 24 weeks. “It seemed like the right time to challenge it properly.”
The bill, which the softly spoken Mr Johnston wrote, does not mess around. Comparing abortion to the most murderous atrocities of the 20th century—“German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide”—it makes performing one a felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.