What an overturned Roe v. Wade looks like in the Mountain West
The Mountain West is as divided on abortion as the nation, itself. States like Colorado have passed legislation to preserve access to abortion, but several others intend to outlaw the practice as soon as possible.
That may be sooner than later, given a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that calls for Roe v Wade to be overturned.
The court’s final ruling could be different, but as it stands, a majority of justices supported the draft giving states the power to ban or allow abortions.
Here’s a look at abortion laws in our region:
An Idaho law passed in 2020 would trigger an abortion ban there if Roe v. Wade is overturned. It would ban most abortions unless they would save a mother’s life or if conception happened via reported rape or incest.
Idaho also passed Texas-style legislation to limit abortion after six weeks by allowing lawsuits against abortion providers, but it’s currently entangled in the courts.
Idaho Governor Brad Little has said he supports Roe v. Wade being overturned but stated that he had concerns about the Texas-style law he signed.
“Ultimately, this legislation risks re-traumatizing victims by affording monetary incentives to wrongdoers and family members of rapists,” Little wrote.
Wyoming has a so-called “trigger law” which could make most abortions illegal in that state within days of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
It says abortions will only be allowed when they’re necessary “to preserve the woman from a serious risk of death or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including any psychological or emotional conditions, or the pregnancy is the result of incest…or sexual assault…”
Most Wyoming women already go to Colorado for medical abortions, according to health providers and officials in that state. Though travel in rural Western states can be dangerous, especially in winter.
Colorado has affirmed abortion access in that state. In response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, Gov. Jared Polis stated, “While this is extremely disappointing news, representing a radical shift in American life away from individual freedom, in Colorado we will continue to fight for and respect the right to make decisions about your own body and medical health.”
Colorado passed legislation this year codifying abortion protections in its state. That legislation states, “Colorado was the first state to decriminalize abortion care in an overwhelmingly bipartisan effort in 1967, well before the Supreme Court affirmed the right to abortion care nationwide in Roe v. Wade. Colorado is a national model for access to family planning services, including long-acting reversible contraceptives.”
The state is one of several that have passed laws to protect abortion access around the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Montana legislators passed laws to limit abortion access last year, including banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, restricting access to abortion-inducing medications and asking patients to view ultrasounds or hear a fetal heartbeat before getting an abortion. Those laws stalled in state courts, though.
Utah also passed a trigger law in 2020.
It would ban abortion unless a pregnancy resulted from rape or incest that was reported to law enforcement, the woman’s life was at stake, or the woman was at risk of having a permanent injury to a “major bodily function.”
There also is an exception if “two physicians who practice maternal fetal medicine concur, in writing, in the patient's medical record that the fetus: has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal; or has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.”
Arizona has a number of laws that it has either passed or considered to limit abortion if Roe is overturned, including one that’s more than 100 years old. That laws states anyone providing abortion in the state could be imprisoned for two to five years unless it was a life-saving measure.
NEW MEXICO, NEVADA AND BEYOND
Abortion access in Nevada and New Mexico is not likely to be affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned. However, the states themselves may see an influx of women from other areas seeking the procedure.
States all around the Mountain West could see the same effect. Oregon has already braced for this spillover from anti-abortion legislation in nearby states.
Abortion access is likely to be preserved in bordering states like Oregon, Washington and California. However, lawmakers in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas will likely ban most abortions if Roe v. Wade falls.
Beyond that, there’s access to things like abortion medication. In most Mountain West states, a physician is required to prescribe abortion medications. However, unlike several Midwest states, telemedicine abortion is legal (outside of Arizona). That means a doctor can call in via video conferencing and prescribe abortion medications that way.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.