Here’s what’s at stake in 2020

An abortion rights activist has gathered outside the US Supreme Court to protest recent abortion laws passed across the country in recent weeks. Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Washington, DC (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Aurora Samperio | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Changes at the state and federal level made 2019 a volatile year for abortion access.

But for activists, the fight is only intensifying. Reproductive rights experts predict that the abortion landscape will change even more drastically in the coming year, thanks to a flurry of expected court rulings and new laws.

Many of the battles in the coming year stem from policies implemented and reversed in previous years.

Republican-led states, emboldened by the new conservative Supreme Court majority and the Trump administration’s anti-abortion policies, passed 59 abortion restrictions in 2019.

Among those restrictions was a wave of state-imposed abortion bans that were temporarily blocked from coming into effect last year.

The Trump administration in February instituted the “gag rule,” which prohibits the use of Title X money “to perform, promote, advocate, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” Title X helps fund birth control and reproductive health care for low-income people, according to Planned Parenthood.

Experts, citing these factors, expect the new year to continue to be difficult for abortion rights.

Here are the major events of 2020 that could bring about a sea change in abortion policy:

Louisiana abortion case in Supreme Court

In March, the Supreme Court will address its first major abortion case with President Donald Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, on the bench.

The High Court will review a controversial 2014 Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the abortions are performed. Opponents said it would effectively limit the state of about 4.5 million to one abortion provider.

The court struck down a nearly identical Texas law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016.

Diana Kasdan, director of court strategy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, an activist group that brought the case in Louisiana, warned that the court could use the case to “effectively ban abortion” even if it does not overturn its long-standing abortion precedents, known as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

“If this law were to be upheld, without overturning Roe v. Wade, without overturning Casey, a state like Louisiana could effectively ban abortion because it will be limited to one clinic,” Kasdan said.

Opponents also fear the ruling could have broader implications for abortion rights, arguing it could undermine the “undue burden” standard applied by the Supreme Court in determining whether abortion-restricting laws are constitutional.

This case involves potential regulation that is “measured against” that standard, said Eric Scheidler, executive director of Pro-Life Action League. “Here in this case, the court has the opportunity to further define this undue burden, perhaps even to overturn the Hellerstedt case,” he said.

2020 Candidates on the Hyde Amendment

Experts on both sides will pay attention to the 2020 Democratic candidates and their stance on the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the person giving birth is at risk. in danger.

Opponents of the Hyde Amendment include reproductive rights groups calling for its repeal, arguing that women of color make up more than half of the Medicaid-enrolled population who face abortion coverage restrictions.

“Restrictions on abortion coverage disproportionately harm low-income people, especially women of color, immigrant women and young women, while anti-choice lawmakers continue to mount unprecedented attacks on reproductive freedom on all fronts,” said Amanda Thayer, deputy director of national communications. nonprofit NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“The moment we find ourselves in shows how support for reproductive freedom, including the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, is no longer negotiable, and all Democratic presidential leaders understand this – something unthinkable there. a few years ago,” Thayer said.

Most Democratic candidates have indicated they support repealing the Hyde Amendment, but did not say whether they would sign a budget that includes the Hyde Amendment. Since its passage in 1977, lawmakers have voted for the Hyde Amendment every year as part of a larger spending bill.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has said he supports repealing it, after facing criticism for flip-flopping on the matter in June. The Democratic frontrunner has changed his position several times since announcing his candidacy for the presidency.

Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League said he “wouldn’t be surprised to see [Biden] if he wins the nomination, when he realizes that most Americans, even those who support legal abortion, don’t believe in forcing Americans to pay for it.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spooked liberals with a spate of recent health issues.

The 86-year-old did not take part in the Supreme Court oral arguments in November due to a stomach ache.

Last year, Ginsburg underwent treatment for what was likely pancreatic cancer, according to a Supreme Court statement. In late 2018, she was treated for cancerous growths on her lungs.

Ginsburg is the longest-serving justice and is considered the leader of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, which outnumbers the conservatives 5-4. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

With the addition of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, the Trump administration would have shifted the Supreme Court’s balance on the topic of abortion to favor conservative policies. Previously, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate Republican appointee, had been the deciding vote on several issues that were split on an ideological vote.

“We suspect Brett Kavanaugh is going to have an anti-choice streak,” said Destiny Lopez, co-director of All*Above All, a coalition that unites organizations to build support for lifting abortion coverage restrictions. “We knew with Gorsuch that this was a problem. So there is concern that this could be further erosion of Roe v. Wade.”

More states could pass abortion bans

A second wave of state abortion bans is expected in 2020, with Tennessee, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and Idaho leading the way.

“I think we’re going to continue to see states try to further erode Roe v. Wade at the state level,” Lopez said. “And I think [states] feeling emboldened after the latest round of abortion regulations last year.”

Republicans in Ohio have proposed a very restrictive bill that prohibits doctors from performing abortions in almost all circumstances unless a person giving birth will die of complications.

The bill offers no exceptions for rape or incest, but it does say that those who have abortions and the doctors who perform them can be prosecuted for murder.

“The days of regulating evil and compromise are over,” said Ohio State Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican and sponsor of the bill. “The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety and to recognize each individual’s inviolable and inalienable right to life.”

The bill is similar to a controversial law overturned in Alabama last year, in which there were also some exceptions for doctors to perform abortions.

But, Lopez said, it’s important to also recognize that there are states that are moving in the opposite direction. While several states have tightened restrictions on abortion, other states, such as New York, Virginia and Maine, have expanded access to abortion.

In January 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the Reproductive Health Act, a law that allows people to have an abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy in cases where the health of the person giving birth is uncertain. at stake or if the baby does not survive birth. Previously, New York law only allowed an abortion after 24 weeks if the person giving birth did not survive.

– CNBC’s Tucker Higgins contributed to this report.

Helen D. Jessen