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Some states will ban abortion, others will expand access if Roe v. Wade is overturned

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: If the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the U.S. is overturned, then abortion laws and abortion access will vary by state. Some states are set to implement total bans. Others are preparing to help patients who travel from states where they can no longer get abortions. And legal battles are expected across the country. NPR national correspondent Sarah McCammon joins us now. Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Hi, Adrian.


Sarah, big picture, if the Supreme Court does end up handing down an opinion similar to the draft that leaked this week overturning Roe v. Wade, what would the country look like in terms of access?

MCCAMMON: So there are several different types of abortion laws that could take effect from state to state in different ways, doing different things. Right now, 13 states have what are known as trigger bans, which are specifically designed to ban abortion if Roe falls. Elizabeth Nash is with the Guttmacher Institute, which is a research group that supports abortion rights.

ELIZABETH NASH: You're thinking from Idaho to Kentucky, all the way up to North Dakota and down to Texas. So they're across the country. They're a cross-section of the country. And they will - would all be in effect within one month of the decision, with most of them going into effect in maybe even as quickly as a day.

MCCAMMON: And then in addition to those, there are another dozen or more states that have either old pre-Roe bans still on the books or other restrictions that are currently tied up in courts. Some of those are early abortion bans. All told, Guttmacher estimates about 26 states are likely or certain to ban most abortions if Roe falls. They estimate 36 million women of reproductive age would be in a state without abortion access.

FLORIDO: So how might this actually play out, like for those old restrictions or those laws that are currently tied up in court? When would those go into effect?

MCCAMMON: Well, states with Republican leaders are likely to act quickly to try to implement as many of these bans as possible. Sue Liebel is with the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion rights. And she says her group is working with governors' offices and attorneys general in some of these states to prepare them to enforce bans as soon as they can.

SUE LIEBEL: We have been talking to all of those about, you know, acting immediately. So when that happens, let's be ready. You know, how do you get that back into play, to say, hey, don't forget, you know, this is not something you want to start the night before, right? We have to plan for this.

MCCAMMON: Because there's a process, and that could mean certifying some of the laws or asking courts to allow them to go into effect.

FLORIDO: So it seems almost certain that there are going to be more legal battles even once the Supreme Court issues its decision.

MCCAMMON: Yeah, it's a virtual certainty. Legal experts expect a tremendous amount of litigation and confusion around how to apply the specifics of the eventual decision to individual state laws. They'll also be looking at state constitutions, some of which may offer their own protections for abortion rights. There could be special sessions in some states that don't have laws on the books but want to either expand or limit abortion access. And as one reproductive rights advocate told me, it is likely to be a mosh pit of litigation in some of these states.

FLORIDO: So, Sarah, what does this mean for patients and abortion providers right now today?

MCCAMMON: Providers are continuing to offer procedures as long as they can. Dr. Colleen McNicholas is with Planned Parenthood, serving patients in the Midwest, including in Missouri, which has a trigger law. Earlier today on the NPR program "1A," McNicholas said they're trying to be very clear with patients right now about what the situation is.

COLLEEN MCNICHOLAS: As we're making appointments for future care, we're being transparent and honest with folks to say today you can make that appointment. And at any moment, if that final decision comes out and is as devastating as it suggests it will be, Missourians will immediately lose access to abortion in their state.

FLORIDO: So most - so more than half of states, Sarah, are likely to ban most or all abortions. But what about the rest?

MCCAMMON: Well, some are expanding access or shoring up protections in state law. Maryland is providing some funding for training abortion providers. Connecticut is providing some legal protections for them. Guttmacher says close to 20 states are in a situation with fairly solid protections for abortion rights. And then there are a handful where it's more complicated, and you're likely to see a lot of continued battles over these questions in legislatures, as well as in the courts.

FLORIDO: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Sarah, thank you.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.