George Will's predictions on abortion law at odds with facts


ABC News analyst and conservative syndicated columnist George F. Will asserted that there would likely be few actual changes to abortion law if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and individual states were left to determine abortion law within their borders, as was the case before the court's 1973 decision. In his January 2 nationally syndicated Washington Post column, Will wrote: "Given public opinion today, when abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures, it is unlikely that any state would seriously impede first-trimester abortions, which are 89 percent of all abortions." But as NARAL Pro-Choice America has shown, a number of states still have pre-Roe total abortion bans "on the books." Moreover, many states have adopted unconstitutional and unenforceable post-Roe restrictions on abortion. It is unclear what the legal status of any of these categories of laws would be if the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, a NARAL Pro-Choice America chart PDF shows that thirteen states still have pre-Roe v. Wade total abortion bans on the books -- and that Utah and Louisiana have enacted new, unconstitutional, and unenforceable bans in the post-Roe era. NARAL noted that in the case of Michigan's law, a state appeals court rejected the "repeal by implication argument," holding that the passage of subsequent, less restrictive legislation did not implicitly repeal the pre-Roe ban on abortion. Federal and state courts have struck down the pre-Roe bans -- or specific provisions within them -- as unconstitutional in eleven of the 15 states that have them, but it is not clear whether those laws would remain unenforceable if Roe were overturned.

A second NARAL chart PDF lists 31 states that have banned some abortion procedures (including some of the 15 states with total abortion bans) or enacted other restrictions on abortion and points out that 25 of those states have passed procedural bans that are currently unconstitutional and unenforceable. These statutes vary in the degree to which they restrict abortions.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
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