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An abortion rights horror story explains the new reality for some American women

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) — The post-Roe v. Wade landscape for American women includes the term “court-ordered abortion” due to a troubling case in Texas, consideration of a Civil War-era abortion law in Arizona and the US Supreme Court announcing it would revisit the issue for the first time since removing nationwide abortion rights last year.

There are very different realities for women across the country:

► A Texas woman’s horror story raised serious questions about whether women who need life-saving exceptions to abortion bans can actually obtain them.

The woman, 31-year-old Kate Cox, had to flee the state, which has one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, to end a pregnancy where the fetus had a fatal condition. Her doctor said it would jeopardize her life and future fertility. The state’s Republican-dominated Supreme Court wanted more guidance from the state’s medical board before granting an exception.

► Lawyers for a woman who is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s six-week abortion ban said her pregnancy is no longer viable, which could call the lawsuit into question.

► Abortion rights opponents argued before Arizona’s Supreme Court in favor of reverting to an 1864 law that predates Arizona’s statehood and could send abortion providers to prison.

In New Mexico, which has a more liberal abortion law, the state Supreme Court is considering whether to strike down local restrictions at the city and county levels.

Michigan’s governor signed a new law to do away with restrictions on abortion rights and no longer require women to obtain a special abortion rider in their health insurance plans.

► At the national level, the US Supreme Court agreed to consider whether to restrict the access of every American woman to mifepristone, the long-approved medication behind most early term US abortions.

Court whisperers say that case may not, as many American women worried when they read the headlines, jeopardize access to the medication, which has been safely used in conjunction with another drug as an abortion method for nearly a quarter century.

The details of that case get complicated and include multiple Food and Drug Administration actions since 2000. Biden administration lawyers have argued the anti-abortion rights doctors who brought the case lack standing because they don’t themselves prescribe the drugs or perform abortions.

Read CNN’s report on the court’s decision to hear the case.

It’s most likely “the case will be resolved on procedural grounds that won’t have any direct effect on access to mifepristone going forward,” Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas Law School, told CNN’s Devan Cole and Ariane de Vogue.

CNN’s Supreme Court biographer Joan Biskupic writes this analysis of the court’s move: “The most personal choices of women (with their physicians) are now litigated in courtrooms, alongside new policy dilemmas, such as over government’s approval of mifepristone.” She adds that the federal government is also challenging Idaho’s near total abortion ban based on its reading of Medicare law.

Texas and Idaho are two of the 14 states in which abortion is essentially banned. But even in red states, voters have taken the opposite direction of GOP-dominated legislatures.

CNN’s Deidre McPhillips reported on a steep rise in the number of women – up to 20% of women seeking abortions in the US – traveling in order to obtain care.

She writes: “Nearly three-quarters of the abortions in New Mexico were provided to people who had traveled across state lines, according to the new data from the Guttmacher Institute. More than 8,200 people from out of state had an abortion in New Mexico in the first half of 2023. Only Illinois and North Carolina saw more out-of-state patients.”

Cox’s nightmare in Texas was the kind of relatable story that had even abortion opponents treading carefully.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban in his state, but said the law, which is under review by the state’s Supreme Court, is different than the one in Texas. DeSantis tried to exude compassion for Cox.

“If you’re in that situation as a mother, that’s an incredibly difficult thing to have to deal with,” he said during CNN’s Iowa town hall on Tuesday. “We’ve got to approach these issues with compassion, because these are very difficult issues.”

DeSantis is challenging former President Donald Trump, who remains the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Trump has criticized the six-week abortion ban in Florida as too strict.

Major issue in 2024

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, already anticipating a Trump GOP primary victory, is honing its argument that Trump is to blame for the chaos that has resulted from a conservative-dominated Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

CNN’s Betsy Klein writes: “As the campaign begins to highlight more contrasts with Trump, it will continue efforts to amplify the politically potent issue, with communications director Michael Tyler telling CNN it will be a ‘central pillar of the campaign moving forward’ compared to Trump’s ‘unpopular and toxic agenda.’”

Abortion rights are also likely to appear on multiple ballots in 2024, according to CNN’s Arit John. After voters in Ohio recently voted to protect abortion rights in that state, and voters in Virginia rejected Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plan to push a 15-week abortion ban by putting the legislature under the control of Democrats, there are more efforts to get abortion measures on the ballot, including in Florida, John notes.

The initiative process there, unlike in many states, requires a supermajority of 60% of voters to approve a measure that would amend the state’s constitution. Voters reached that threshold when they legalized medical marijuana and raised the state’s minimum wage in recent years.

There are also efforts to get abortion questions on the ballot in the battleground states of Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania. These efforts could further alter a fast-changing landscape.

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