WASHINGTON – Thirty states are poised to make abortion illegal within a year if the Supreme Court (search) reversed its 1973 ruling establishing a woman's legal right to an abortion, an advocacy group said Tuesday.
The pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights said some states have old laws on the books that would be triggered by the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade (search) decision. Others have language in their state constitutions or strongly anti-abortion legislatures that would act quickly if the federal protection for abortion was ended and the issue reverted to the states.
"The building blocks are already in place to recriminalize abortion," said Nancy Northup, the center's president.
The group's report comes less than a month before the presidential election, which those on both sides of the abortion issue say will be critical in determining the future of the Roe decision.
Currently, it is believed that five of the nine justices support abortion rights (search), but that balance could be tipped if President Bush, in a second term, nominates a new justice who reflects his anti-abortion views. Democratic contender John Kerry is a strong supporter of abortion rights.
The center found that 18 states had pre-Roe laws totally or partially banning abortion. In some cases those laws have been blocked by a court, but could easily be revived if Roe were overturned. Alabama is one state where the abortion ban was never enjoined by the courts, and could be immediately enforced.
Other states such as Ohio don't have abortion bans, but both the legislature and the governor oppose abortion and without Roe there would likely be a rush to pass legislation banning abortion, the center said.
It concluded that 21 states are at high risk, and nine states at middle risk, of banning abortion within a year of Roe being overturned. More than 70 million women of childbearing age would be affected, the center said.
Another 20 states, including Massachusetts, which has a pre-Roe ban, would likely retain abortion rights because of other statutory protections or the makeup of their legislatures.
"We are really, I think, in some peril now," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., one of 11 abortion rights lawmakers to attend the center's Capitol Hill news conference.
The only Republican was Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., who said that Roe v. Wade was "an extraordinarily important document" and "we need to elect more pro-choice Republicans to the Congress."
The 21 states considered at high risk of banning abortion were: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The nine at middle risk: Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
The 20 at lower risk: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, on its Web site, says it "is a non-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting and defending women's reproductive rights worldwide."