SEATTLE -- Why would states pass laws they know to be unconstitutional? That's exactly what Alabama's new anti-abortion law is -- a direct shot at Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that has protected abortion access in this country for nearly 50 years.
But that's the point. Alabama lawmakers want to challenge the ruling and so do a number of states.
"In the short term, it's a political message to exert the values under the current political and religious climate in which we exist, that these states now feel comfortable and do have the politicians who have been elected who now will pass those laws," said Deirdre Bowen, associate law professor at Seattle University.
If the short game is sending a message, the long game is overturning Roe v. Wade. Many of these politicians believe that with the conservative majority currently on the bench, the Supreme Court might just do it.
This is more than a question of restricting abortion access in a couple of states. Even before this year and what Bowen called an unprecedented wave of new anti-abortion laws, the Guttmacher Institute reports six states had passed preemptive laws on the books that would make abortion illegal in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned:
- Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota
The following 10 states have ongoing or upcoming court challenges on abortion:
- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah
These nine states had abortion bans before Roe v. Wade that could be reinstated if the ruling were overturned:
- Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin
These seven states allow abortion restrictions up to the limit allowed by federal law, which could trigger full abortion bans if the ruling were overturned:
- Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio
On the contrast, there are 10 states, including Washington, that have preemptively passed laws protecting abortion access regardless of federal protections:
- California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Washington
Washington voters passed an initiative protecting abortion access in the state back in 1991. It passed by a very slim margin but has held for nearly three decades. Year after year, some state legislators introduce bills to outlaw abortions but they never gain ground.
What that means is that in the event the Supreme Court did overturn Roe v. Wade, in Washington, abortion would still be legal.
Across the country, the U.S. population is split right down the middle when it comes to the pro-life, pro-choice debate. A 2018 Gallup poll showed 48 percent of respondents identified as pro life and 48 percent identified as pro choice. If you split it by gender, it's roughly the same result: About half of women are pro life and half are pro choice.
The results are much different if you ask respondents if they want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. In the latest Pew Research Center poll on the topic, only 28 percent of respondents said they wanted to see the court ruling overturned, while 69 percent did not want to see it overturned.