In States Banning Abortion, a Growing Rift Over Enforcement

In States Banning Abortion, a Growing Rift Over Enforcement

“I believe that most providers, and certainly Planned Parenthood, intend to follow the law,” said Helene Krasnoff, vice president for public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. At the same time, she said, some people will violate the bans because “patients are going to be desperate.”

Abortion rights groups said there could be serious consequences if law enforcement officials moved to aggressively investigate and prosecute abortions as crimes.

While existing laws largely exempt women who get abortions, defense lawyers and abortion rights groups are worried that zealous prosecutors could bring cases against anyone who helps them get abortions, or abortion pills. Advocates say the 2014 case of a Pennsylvania mother who was jailed for ordering abortion pills for her teenage daughter is a harbinger.

“It’s open season,” said C. Melissa Owen, a criminal defense lawyer in Charlotte, N.C., who has studied laws criminalizing abortion. “Best friends, aunts, mothers, boyfriends, receptionists, nurses — anyone providing care or assistance falls under the umbrella of being a co-conspirator.”

In Oklahoma, where an abortion ban from the moment of fertilization went into effect on Friday, the attorney general, John O’Connor, promised that there would be immediate enforcement, including against those who “solicit” abortions, and said that could include companies that have said they would support employees traveling out of state for abortions.

“I would say if you put up a billboard, or if you advertise that you’re going to provide abortions in Oklahoma or in another state, that you’re soliciting an abortion,” Mr. O’Connor told reporters.

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