Where the abortion debate stands now

12:23 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

This judge is skeptical of Mississippi's abortion ban — but he didn't issue a ruling

A federal judge in Mississippi expressed deep skepticism on Tuesday about a state law that bans abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, sending a signal that a series of similar attempts across the country to pass near total bans on abortion might not withstand judicial scrutiny.

The judge did not rule from the bench, but said he would issue a ruling soon. 

During a hearing, Judge Carlton Reeves expressed anger at times, especially over the fact that the law has no exception for rape or incest.

Some background: Six months ago, Reeves struck a 15-week ban on abortion. That's when the legislature responded with an even more restrictive law.

Today, Reeves questioned whether the new law “smacks of defiance” to this court. 

"You said we can't do 15 weeks so 'by God we will do six weeks,'" Reeves said at one point. He then rhetorically asked if the state legislature would call a special session and then pass a four-week or two-week ban.

1:04 p.m. ET, May 21, 2019

2020 Democrats lend their support for abortion ban protests

Some 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are attending, or watching, today's rallies.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the current frontrunner according to multiple polls, just tweeted the #StopTheBans hashtag organizers have promoted.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will also be in attendance.

This post was updated as more candidates arrived.

11:06 a.m. ET, May 21, 2019

The 5 states that signed restrictive abortion bills into law this year

Abortion is legal under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

But most states have set limits in one way or another.

This year, a series of strict anti-abortion bills have been passed with the intention to reshape women's access to the procedure:

  • The most restrictive abortion law in the country is in Alabama. The ban makes abortion illegal in virtually all cases — including cases of rape and incest — and doctors who perform abortions could face life in prison.
  • Lawmakers in GeorgiaOhioKentucky and Mississippi also proposed so-called heartbeat bills this year and successfully got them signed into law. Those bills generally ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — when many women don't yet know they're pregnant.

10:50 a.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Rep. Jackie Speier says women are "being depicted as chattel" in abortion debate

California Rep. Jackie Speier said Tuesday that women are being portrayed as property in states that have passed legislation restricting abortions and argued that government should be excluded from womens' health decisions.

"I think that women are being depicted as chattel," Speier said in an interview with CNN's Alisyn Camerota on "New Day" when asked about state bills that would limit abortion procedures.

"The government has no right in my uterus, has no right in my vagina," the California Democrat said.

Several Republican-led states have moved to pass bills restricting abortion, including Alabama, which enacted the country's most restrictive abortion law last week, with the hopes of them being used as a vehicle to challenge the US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. 

"This has gotten quite absurd, and I think Alabama is just one more example of the many states that have now passed laws to treat women as if they do not have control over their bodies," Speier told CNN.

Speier argued, "if we are going to start regulating women and their reproductive health, well maybe we should start regulating men and their reproductive health." 

Speier last week joined a number of women on social media in sharing their personal stories about abortion, saying that she underwent the procedure because it was the "best choice for my health (and) my family."

"While it was an immensely hard decision, I don't regret it," she wrote on Twitter.

9:46 a.m. ET, May 21, 2019

Abortion rights advocates will rally in almost every state today

Protestors participate in a rally against Alabama's abortion ban on Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama.
Protestors participate in a rally against Alabama's abortion ban on Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama. Julie Bennett/Getty Images

Abortion rights protesters trying to stop a wave of anti-abortion laws plan to flood statehouses, town squares and courthouses today.

More than 50 organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America — are participating in #StopTheBans protests nationwide.

Rallies will take place at noon local time in almost all 50 states.

"Across the country, we are seeing a new wave of extreme bans on abortion, stripping away reproductive freedom and representing an all-out assault on abortion access," organizers said. "This is Trump's anti-choice movement... and it's terrifying, particularly for women of color and low-income women who are most affected by these bans."
9:22 a.m. ET, May 21, 2019

He struck down Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks — so the state banned them at six

It was only six months ago that federal district Judge Carlton Reeves struck down a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, holding that the state was "wrong on the law" and that its Legislature's "professed interest" in women's health amounted to "pure gaslighting." 

The state's response was to pass an even more restrictive law in March that bans abortion as early as six weeks

What happens now: Today Reeves, who sits on the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, will hear a new challenge from astonished critics who say the Legislature moved brazenly to both disregard his earlier opinion and Supreme Court precedent.