Republican-led states around the country have enacted a flurry of new restrictions on abortion, LGBTQ and transgender youth rights, and discussion of critical race theory.
Here’s a look at some of the legislation that has passed this session, what’s next for the bills and what else is under consideration. The wave of activity on the state level comes ahead of a highly anticipated ruling by the US Supreme Court expected later this year that could have major implications for abortion.
New abortion restrictions
Florida – Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure into law on April 14 that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy without exemptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. The bill allows exemptions in cases where pregnancy poses “serious” health risks or fatal fetal abnormalities are detected if two physicians confirm the diagnoses in writing. What’s next: The American Civil Liberties Union is promising to “take swift legal action” to challenge the law before it goes into effect on July 1.
Kentucky – The GOP-controlled state legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a sweeping abortion bill on April 13 that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, restricts access to medication abortion and makes it more difficult for a minor to obtain an abortion in the state. The legislation does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest. What’s next: The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed lawsuits in federal court, arguing the law violates the Constitution.
Oklahoma – Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a near-total ban on abortion into law on April 12, making exceptions only in the case of medical emergencies. It would make performing an abortion or attempting to perform the procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in state prison or a $100,000 fine, or both. The legislation would not provide exceptions in cases of rape and incest. What’s next: The law takes effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns in May.
Tennessee – The Republican-led state House passed a bill on Thursday that would allow only physicians to provide drugs used in medication abortions and bar the drugs from being sent via mail. The legislation, House Bill 2416, would establish criminal penalties and civil liability for offenders that would not apply to the patient who was provided the abortion drugs. It would also require physicians to examine patients in person before providing the abortion drugs and to schedule follow-up visits for the patients. What’s next: The bill now heads to the state Senate, where Republican lawmakers also have a majority.
West Virginia – The GOP-controlled state House passed a bill on February 15 banning abortion after 15 weeks, except in a medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. It provides no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Republican Gov. Jim Justice also signed a bill on March 21 that would ban abortion if a pregnant person is seeking the procedure because the fetus has been diagnosed with or presumed to have a disability. The bill goes into effect in June and provides exceptions in medical emergencies or if the fetus is “nonmedically viable.” What’s next: The 15-week abortion ban bill is now with the state Senate, where its passage would send it to Justice’s desk.
Idaho – Republican Gov. Brad Little signed a bill modeled after the Texas law that bans abortions after embryonic or fetal cardiac activity has been detected, making Idaho the first state to follow the controversial Texas statute that allows private citizens to enforce the restrictions with lawsuits. What’s next: The Idaho Supreme Court on April 8 temporarily blocked the law ahead of its April 22 implementation.
Arizona – Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law legislation that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in some cases of medical emergency – becoming the first state this year to enact a ban after 15 weeks, following a similar law Mississippi passed in 2018 that the US Supreme Court seems poised to uphold this year. The bill offers no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
South Dakota – Republican Gov. Kristi Noem on March 23 signed a law that will further restrict access to medication abortions in the state. The law makes South Dakota one of hardest places in the country to get abortion drugs, requiring pregnant women to make at least three trips to a clinic to obtain abortion medication. The measure, however, will not take effect immediately due to litigation. What’s next: The law will not go into effect unless the judge’s injunction is lifted, which Noem’s administration is seeking through an appeal.
New anti-LGBTQ and trans youth restrictions
Alabama – Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the state’s own version of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law on April 8 after the legislature passed a surprise amendment to a transgender bathroom bill. The law will stop K-5 elementary teachers from “instruction” on sexuality and gender. In addition to instructional limits, the bill requires students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex on their birth certificate. Ivey also signed SB 184 into law, which states medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to minors could face up to 10 years in prison. What’s next: The ACLU, on behalf of two families, has filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking it to strike down SB 184, banning gender-affirming care.
Kentucky – The GOP-controlled state legislature has overridden Beshear after he vetoed a bill on April 6 that would prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender at public and private schools in the state. The bill, dubbed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” reads: “An athletic activity or sport designated as ‘girls’ for students in grades six through twelve shall not be open to members of the male sex.”
Pennsylvania – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 115-84 on April 12 to ban transgender girls and women from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender. House Bill 972, known as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” states that sports or teams sponsored by a public school entity or institution must be designated as male, female or coed and that “athletic or teams or sports designated for females, women or girls…may not be open to students of the male sex.” What’s next: The bill heads to the state Senate, but Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has vowed to veto the legislation.
Utah – The GOP-controlled legislature on March 25 voted to override Republican Gov. Spencer Cox’ veto of a bill that bans young transgender athletes from competing on women’s and girls’ sports teams. What’s next: The ACLU has threatened to sue over the law, saying, “Litigation to stop H.B. 11 from taking effect is now both necessary and inevitable.”
Florida – DeSantis on March 28 signed legislation banning certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, approving a controversial measure that opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. HB 1557, titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, was given final passage by Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature last month. What’s next: Two LGBTQ rights advocacy groups, as well as students, parents and a teacher in Florida, filed a federal lawsuit in late March challenging the new law and seeking to block its implementation and enforcement. The law is set to take effect in July.
Ohio – Two Republican state representatives introduced a bill in the state legislature on Monday that would ban the teaching or providing of “any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity” to students in kindergarten through third grade, using similar language to the Florida law critics have named “Don’t Say Gay.” If passed, the measure would also forbid Ohio public school educators in grades four through 12 from teaching or using “instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity in any manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” What’s next: Awaiting votes in the state House.
Texas – The state began investigating families seeking gender-affirming care for their transgender minor children after Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton declared such treatment to be “child abuse.” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to begin the investigations. The ACLU sued on behalf of the parents of a transgender girl and an appeals court has upheld a temporary injunction blocking the action. What’s next: Paxton has asked the state Supreme Court to intervene to allow the child abuse investigations.
Arizona – Ducey last month signed two bills into law targeting transgender youth in the state, prohibiting trans girls and women from competing on women’s and girls’ sports teams and restricting youth access to gender-affirming care. What’s next: The ACLU has vowed to sue to block the law restricting gender-affirming care.
Oklahoma – Stitt signed legislation banning transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender at public schools, public charter schools and public colleges in the state.
Iowa – Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation banning transgender women and girls from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender at accredited schools and colleges.
South Dakota – Noem signed a law banning transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender at accredited schools and colleges.
New anti-critical race theory actions
Florida – The GOP-controlled state legislature has voted to ban public schools and private businesses from teaching people to “feel guilt” for historical events committed by people of their race. The “Stop WOKE Act” would also prohibit instruction that says certain races or sexes are privileged or oppressed. The bill comes after Florida banned the teaching of critical race theory last year in public schools. What’s next: The bill heads to DeSantis, who is expected to sign it.
Kentucky – The Republican-controlled legislature overrode a veto from Beshear that restricts classroom instruction about race. The law says in part that public schools shall provide instructions that align with certain concepts including: “An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race or sex” and that “defining racial disparities solely on the legacy” of slavery “is destructive to the unification of our nation.”
Georgia – The state legislature approved a bill that would limit discussions about race in classrooms and prohibit schools from advocating “divisive concepts,” including discussion that people “should feel anguish, guilt, or any other form of psychological distress” about their race and that “the United States of America is fundamentally racist.” The bill would also allow the Georgia High School Association to ban transgender students from participating in girls’ sports in public high schools. What’s next: The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for signing.
South Dakota – Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order last month restricting the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools after the state Senate Education Committee killed a bill that would have accomplished a similar goal. Noem has also signed a law this session blocking mandatory critical race theory trainings and orientations at colleges in the state.
Ohio – A bill introduced earlier this month mirroring the Florida law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” would also ban curriculum for all grades that teaches, promotes or endorses what it calls “divisive or inherently racist concepts.” It would outlaw any textbook, instructional material or academic curriculum that “promotes” concepts such as critical race theory; intersectional theory; The 1619 Project; inherited racial guilt; diversity, equity and inclusion learning outcomes; inherited racial guilt; or “any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist.” What’s next: The bill awaits a vote in the state House.
New ‘election police’ forces
Florida – The Republican-controlled Florida House passed a voting overhaul bill that would create a security office to investigate election crimes and increase penalties for violating the state’s election laws. The legislation would establish a scaled-back version of an elections police force first proposed last year by DeSantis. What’s next: The bill will be sent to DeSantis’ desk for a signature.
Georgia – State lawmakers passed a bill on their final day of the session earlier this month that would give new election policing powers to the state’s bureau of investigation. Georgia becomes the second state after Florida to pass an election police force bill this year as Republicans continue to falsely claim the 2020 election was rife with voter fraud. What’s next: The bill awaits Kemp’s signature. He has 40 days to sign the legislation or veto it.
This story has been updated with additional developments.