Anti-abortion bills abound; their fate in court is unknown

FILE - This Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 file photo shows a number of empty seats in the South Carolina House chamber in Columbia, S.C., after Democrats walked out during the debate. Emboldened by a conservative Supreme Court, Republican state lawmakers are rushing to enact abortion limits, including outright bans intended to test the landmark Roe v Wade decision. More abortion restrictions already have been enacted into law than in any year but one over the last decade, and dozens of additional bills are working their way through GOP-controlled legislatures. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins, file)
FILE - This Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 file photo shows a number of empty seats in the South Carolina House chamber in Columbia, S.C., after Democrats walked out during the debate. Emboldened by a conservative Supreme Court, Republican state lawmakers are rushing to enact abortion limits, including outright bans intended to test the landmark Roe v Wade decision. More abortion restrictions already have been enacted into law than in any year but one over the last decade, and dozens of additional bills are working their way through GOP-controlled legislatures. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins, file) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

At an intense pace, lawmakers in Republican-governed states are considering an array of tough anti-abortion restrictions they hope might reach the Supreme Court and win approval from its conservative majority, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.

A sweeping ban already has been signed into law in South Carolina, only to be swiftly blocked by a lawsuit from abortion-rights groups. Arkansas' governor signed another ban this past week.

A batch of other near-total bans also were blocked in the courts after their passage in 2019.

It's not clear if or when the Supreme Court might consider any of them, or take some other path. The court could weaken Roe with approval of less drastic restrictions or even leave the core of the 1973 ruling in place.

“Anyone who tells you what the Supreme Court is going to do is pulling your leg,” said Jennifer Popik, federal legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.

What’s clear is that the federal judiciary changed dramatically during Donald Trump’s presidency. In addition to three appointments to the Supreme Court, giving it a 6-3 conservative majority, Trump made scores of appointments to federal district and appellate courts. That raises the possibility that previously rejected anti-abortion measures might now be upheld.

State Rep. John McCravy, a Republican who sponsored the South Carolina ban, said Roe v. Wade was on his mind in crafting the bill.

“This is a decision that the Supreme Court is going to need to make,” he said. “Certainly it’s encouraging to see the court changing and to see hope at the end of the tunnel.”