As some states limit abortion, others move to protect abortion rights

click to enlarge Sabra Harris, left, and Charlene Kibbons rally with other abortion rights activists in downtown St. Louis, Mo., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The Missouri legislature recently passed a bill that would ban abortion after eight weeks. - WHITNEY CURTIS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Whitney Curtis/The New York Times
Sabra Harris, left, and Charlene Kibbons rally with other abortion rights activists in downtown St. Louis, Mo., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The Missouri legislature recently passed a bill that would ban abortion after eight weeks.

By Kate Taylor and Julie Turkewitz
New York Times News Service


A district attorney in Utah says he refuses to enforce a new law banning abortions after 18 weeks. In Colorado, the secretary of state is barring her staff from taking work-related trips to Alabama, a protest against that state’s decision last week to set the strictest abortion limits in the country. And in Vermont, Democrats who control the state Legislature have approved a law aimed at providing some of the strongest protections of abortion rights in the nation; supporters have pleaded with the state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, to sign it.

The Vermont measure sets no restrictions on abortions and would prohibit the government from interfering in any way with the right to have the procedure. It does not change the status quo in Vermont, where there are no legal limits on when or under what circumstances a woman can decide to end a pregnancy. But supporters say that the bill sends an important message to the nation about the state’s views on abortion rights, at a time when other states are sending far different signals.


The measure also has a practical purpose for the future, the supporters say, in case the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the decision that made abortion legal.

“In this time when, across the country and nationally, Roe v. Wade and individuals’ access to private, reliable reproductive health care and abortion is in question, we thought we’d better be clear in Vermont,” said Ann Pugh, a state representative from South Burlington and one of the bill’s lead sponsors.

As conservatives in states like Alabama, Georgia and Missouri race to pass some of the strictest restrictions on abortions in decades, a pushback is developing as well. In Democratic-held or Democratic-leaning states, abortion rights supporters who are alarmed by the new laws and by the threat represented by a more conservative Supreme Court are trying to repeal abortion restrictions or limit government’s say over women’s reproductive decisions.

Across the country Tuesday, supporters of abortion rights were expected to gather starting at noon outside state houses and on the steps of the Supreme Court to protest the recent abortion bans. In Vermont, activists planned to rally Tuesday evening on the lawn of the state house in Montpelier, as well as in Bennington and Brattleboro.

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