The New Abortion Bans: Almost No Exceptions for Rape, Incest or Health

“I think we are heading in a direction of increasing absolutism and punitiveness,” said Reva Siegel, a Yale Law School professor who is a co-author of an equal protection amicus brief in the Mississippi case before the Supreme Court. She noted that even as Mississippi legislators restricted abortion access, they refused to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage.

The move away from exceptions reflects the Republican Party’s shift to the right, said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at the University of California, Davis, Law School and author of “Dollars for Life,” a book to be published this month about the anti-abortion movement and the Republican Party.

Candidates are increasingly jockeying for far-right support in primaries in Republican-dominated states, she said, aware not only that turnout typically consists of the most fervent voters but also that national anti-abortion groups are searching for local standard-bearers to fund.

Much of that rightward shift has been propelled by Mr. Trump. But during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, Mr. Trump said in tweets that he supported exceptions to allow abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, or to protect the life of the mother. A spokesman for Mr. Trump declined requests from The New York Times to describe the former president’s current position on exceptions, or his reaction to the state bans that don’t include them.

Though embracing limited exceptions might have once seemed politically expedient, the aims of the anti-abortion movement have grown increasingly unconditional. As the composition of the Supreme Court became more conservative, Ms. Ziegler said, there has been “a sense that the movement could pretty much get whatever it wanted without alienating the court.”

Now, anti-abortion groups are debating whether to accept any exception to a ban.

Students for Life, an anti-abortion organization, distinguishes between exceptions for rape or incest, and one to save the life of the woman, said Kristan Hawkins, the group’s president. How a child was conceived, she said, is irrelevant to the value of that child’s life: “We see them as valuable, worthy of love, and welcome.”

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