Alabama's passage of the nation's strictest abortion bill is touching off almost a contest among lawmakers in the South and Midwest to join the anti-abortion ranks, helping propel the highly emotional issue into the national debate and put it before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Missouri lawmakers now seek to wrest Alabama's anti-abortion torch and move to the front of the line.
"It's time to make Missouri the most Pro-Life state in the country!" Republican Gov. Mike Parson tweeted Wednesday as debate in his state's Senate began a "heartbeat" abortion ban. Lawmakers pushed it through and hope to get it past the House Friday on the last day for passing bills.
Missouri's conservative state senators even put aside squabbles on other, more parochial issues, this week to end a filibuster in order to take up the legislation that would prohibit nearly all abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they're pregnant.
The latest developments are also firing up the opposition. "This is not just about Alabama. We are seeing these extreme bills being introduced across the country," said Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen told reporters Wednesday. "These extreme bans banning abortions at six weeks or earlier, before women even know we're pregnant, is happening in 16 states."
Here's a look at where key states stand on abortion:
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin's administration on Wednesday started its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that struck down the state's abortion law that would halt a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies.
U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. ruled last week that the 2018 law would create a "substantial obstacle" to a woman's right to an abortion, violating constitutionally protected privacy rights.
More: Where is abortion legal? Everywhere. But ...
The laws emanating from anti-abortion states not only limit, if not eliminate, the options for abortion in individual states, they essentially invite a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in and possibly reverse on the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
While some states have long been active in their anti-abortion efforts, many now find the political atmosphere under the Trump administration more supportive, particularly after the addition of two conservative justices on the high court.
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"It is clearer than ever that Roe is far from being settled law in the eyes and hearts of the American people, and this is increasingly reflected in state legislatures," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion advocacy group, said in a statement Wednesday. "The American people want a fresh debate and a new direction, achieved by consensus and built on love for both mothers and babies. The time is coming for the Supreme Court to let that debate go forward."
For abortion-rights supporters, meanwhile, the Alabama law is ominous. "The bill that ... is an all-out abortion ban. But make no mistake: Women across the country see what is happening, and they are going to be the deciding voters in the 2020 election," said Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood.
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Missouri's Republican-led Senate passed its bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. Senators approved the legislation 24-10 early Thursday. It needs at least one more vote of approval in the GOP-led House before it can go to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who voiced support for it on Wednesday.
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The measure would ban abortions after eight weeks and require that both parents be notified in order for a minor to get an abortion, with exceptions. In addition, it would include a ban on abortions based on race, sex or a "prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome in an unborn child."
Alabama's law makes performing virtually all abortions a crime, punishable as Class A felony, punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison. It passed the legislature on Tuesday and was signed by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday.
More: How does Alabama's abortion bill compare to Georgia's 'fetal heartbeat' law?
In April, Ohio became the third state this year to pass a "heartbeat" bill banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The ban takes effect after the detection of a fetal heartbeat at a point before many women are even aware they are pregnant.
Gov. Brian Kemp touched of a firestorm of protest last week after signing his state's anti-abortion "heartbeat bill." Kemp even delayed an annual trip to Los Angeles to promote Georgia's burgeoning film industry as movie executives, producers and actors criticized the state's new abortion ban.
His spokesman Cody Hall says the event is now set for this fall and that the governor will soon tour Georgia film production firms and meet with industry workers to show his support.
The state's "heartbeat bill," which does not allow exceptions for rape or incest, was signed in March by Gov. Phil Bryant, but is already being challenged in court. The state's 2018 law banning abortions after 15 weeks was struck down in federal court in November. The state attorney general filed papers in April to appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, "heartbeat" bills have passed one chamber of the legislature in Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee and have been introduced in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The bills hit at the nexus of the abortion debate, and frame the act in stark, emotional terms, with proponents arguing that preserving life outweighs arguments against government interference in personal, medical decisions.
The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group on sexual and reproductive health issues, finds the abortion debate ranges from seven states deemed "very hostile" to abortion rights (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota) to one state (California) considered "very supportive."
The institute says legislation is under consideration in more than 25 states to ban abortion in a variety of ways.
These include "trigger bans" that would automatically make abortion illegal if Roe is overturned; "method bans" that would bar providers from performing a specific type of abortion; "reason bans" that would prohibit abortion based on fetal characteristics, such as sex, race or disability status; and "gestational age bans," prohibiting an abortion at a specific point in pregnancy, such as six, 18 or 20 weeks after the last menstrual period.
In April, North Dakota's Republican governor signed a bill outlawing a second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation.
The law, which includes the non-medical term "human dismemberment abortion," makes it a crime for doctors to use instruments such as clamps, scissors and forceps to remove the fetus from the womb during the second trimester.
Women getting the procedure would not be charged, but doctors performing it would face a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. An exception exists for medical emergencies.
Legal roadblocks and opportunities
Kentucky's bill has been stymied by a federal court order blocking enforcement and the first-in-the-nation bill passed by North Dakota in 2013 was ruled unconstitutional, as was one passed last year in Iowa.
To many anti-abortion voices, legal challenges are the point.
"The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade," Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis told the Associated Press last month.
"While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies," he said.
Likewise, pro-abortion forces see the courts as an avenue to create precedents to fortify their position.
After Gov. DeWine signed the Ohio bill, the national ACLU response was swift and pointed: "We'll see you in court."
Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said recently that the attempts to go after Roe have been going on for a decade, but now the opponents "are out in the open as to their goal."
Meanwhile, she says, states are also passing other laws, such as narrowly restricting clinic options for women, that are "quietly pushing abortion out of the reach for thousands of women."
Dalven also notes that the Supreme Court already has a number of abortion-related cases it could take up immediately it if wanted to and does not have to wait for a "heartbeat" abortion challenge to work its way up the appeals track.
Divide over abortion in America
Laws against abortion are by no means a slam-dunk, even in Red states. Proposed heartbeat bans failed to pass this year in Texas and fell short in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
In addition, 13 states have introduced legislation that would establish legal protections for abortion or repeal what they view as outdated abortion laws.
In January, New York adopted the "Reproductive Health Act" that affirms the right to abortion until the fetus is viable and when the patient's life or health is at risk.
It joins nine other states in establishing legal protections for abortion. Similar bills have passed the first legislative chamber in New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After Alabama OKs strictest abortion law in nation, Missouri could be next. Where states stand on abortion bans