With Democrats now in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it might appear that the fight over abortion rights has become a standoff.
After all, abortion-rights supporters within the Democratic caucus will be in a position to block the kind of curbs that Republicans advanced over the past two years when they had control of Congress.
But those on both sides of the debate insist that won’t be the case.
Despite the Republicans’ loss of the House, anti-abortion forces gained one of their most sought-after victories in decades with the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now, with a stronger possibility of a 5-4 majority in favor of more restrictions on abortion, anti-abortion groups are eager to get test cases to the high court.
And that is just the beginning.
“Our agenda is very focused on the executive branch, the coming election and the courts,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List. She says the new judges nominated to lower federal courts by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate, reflect “a legacy win.”
The Trump administration
While Congress is unlikely to agree on reproductive health legislation in the coming two years, the Trump administration is still pursuing an aggressive anti-abortion agenda — using its power of regulation.
A final rule is expected any day that would cut off a significant part of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding — not from Medicaid but from the Title X Family Planning Program. Planned Parenthood annually provides family planning and other health services that don’t involve abortion to about 40 percent of the program’s 4 million patients.
Abortion opponents having pushed through more than 400 separate abortion restrictions on the state level since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights think tank. In 2018 alone, according to Guttmacher, 15 states adopted 27 new limits on abortion and family planning.
The fate of all these policies will be decided eventually by the courts.
In fact, several state-level restrictions are already in the pipeline to the Supreme Court and could serve as a vehicle to curtail or overturn Roe v. Wade.
Among the state laws closest to triggering such a review is an Indiana law banning abortion for gender selection or genetic flaws, among other things. Also awaiting final legal say is an Alabama law banning the most common second-trimester abortion method — dilation and evacuation.