As the Trump administration ramps up its war on women, Delaware just took a step in the opposite direction, passing a law to shield abortion rights from Republican attacks.
Though abortion was illegal in most circumstances under state law, Roe v. Wade enshrined a woman’s inherent right to choose. With Senate Bill 5, even if the landmark 1973 ruling is overturned, abortion will remain legal in the state.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Debra Heffernan, stated this week: “Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 44 years, and we want to make sure that Delaware protects that right no matter what happens at the federal level.”
The bill’s lead sponsor was state Sen. Bryan Townsend, who called it an “important effort to protect women’s rights.”
“We should have done this decades ago,” Townsend said last month. “I believe that we have a responsibility to women across Delaware not to have their rights be invalidated by an extreme shift in Washington.”
Abortion was only allowed by state law “if the pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk, if it is a result of rape or incest, or if there is substantial risk of grave birth defects.” Abortions were banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Delaware Online writes.
The new law removes restrictions before a fetus reaches “viability.”
It also, Rewire points out, “repeal[s] the forced 24-hour waiting period prior to having an abortion, the state-mandated counseling prior to the procedure, and the requirement that a parent or guardian give consent for a pregnant minor to receive abortion care.”
“This new law is important because it says to women that you are important, that you have the ability to decide when to have a child and the state supports you in making the decision that is best for you and your family,” said Elizabeth Nash, an analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that works to promote sexual and reproductive health.
The Associated Press notes that the signing “of the bill comes as similar attempts in other Democratic-leaning states”—including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York—” to codify abortion rights have stalled.”