Abortion foes emboldened by Trump’s victory

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Christina Hagan, the youngest woman in the Ohio Legislature, received a surprise last week. The toughest piece of abortion legislation in the country — a bill she had championed for years — suddenly passed.

The measure, which would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks, was long presumed dead. But now that Donald Trump is headed to the White House, the political winds have changed, and it passed with overwhelming majorities.

So did a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. Neither contains exceptions for rape or incest. Now Governor John Kasich — a Republican who is an ardent abortion opponent and onetime challenger to Trump — is weighing whether to sign one or both.


“President-elect Trump has drastically shifted the dynamics,” said Hagan, 28, a Republican who has served in the Ohio House since 2011. “I honestly could not have foreseen this victory a week or a month ago.”

The effects of Trump’s victory are only beginning to be felt. But one of the biggest changes is playing out in abortion politics. From the composition of the Supreme Court (Trump has promised to nominate staunchly antiabortion justices), to efforts on Capitol Hill to enact a permanent ban on taxpayer-financed abortions, to emboldened Republican statehouses like the one in Ohio, combatants on both sides see legalized abortion imperiled as it has not been for decades.

That includes, they agree, the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion decision, during the Trump presidency.

“This is the strongest the pro-life movement has been since 1973,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, and chairwoman of a coalition of opponents of abortion that worked to elect Trump. “We are dealing now with a president who has not been playing the game in the way that other presidents, including Republicans, have.”


Trump was elected after a decade of antiabortion gains in state legislatures; Ohio is the 18th state to adopt a 20-week abortion ban, though two such bills, in Arizona and Idaho, did not survive constitutional challenges in federal court. States that preserve rights, like New York and California, are increasingly rare.

“I think we are standing on the precipice of a really dark time,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. She said Trump had “zero mandate” to roll back Roe, and her group would fight back hard; its fund-raising and membership are up.

On Monday, the antiabortion group Americans United for Life is scheduled to release a 135-page report describing what it calls “horrific abortion clinic conditions” in 32 states. Clarke Forsythe, the group’s acting president, said the report was intended to be “an inspiration to state legislators” to enact new restrictions and a “rebuke to the Supreme Court’s tragic decision” to strike down a far-reaching Texas antiabortion law in June.

In Texas, where abortion foes are still bruised by that ruling, Republican state Representative Jonathan Stickland has vowed “an absolute onslaught of pro-life legislation” in 2017. He said Texas also might adopt a heartbeat bill.

Four states — Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota — have adopted “trigger bans” that would automatically make abortion a crime if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving it to the states to decide on the legality of abortions. Strickland predicted that states would start “filling up the pipeline” with antiabortion bills.