An abortion rights activist blows a party horn at anti-abortion protesters outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization, on the final day when abortions are carried out, before the clinic permanently closes, in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S. July 6, 2022. REUTERS/Liliana Salgado

After the controversial abortion decision of the Supreme Court in the USA, abortions are now also banned in Mississippi – and thus in a total of seven states.

On Thursday, a law came into effect that is even stricter than the 15-week law. It bans all abortions with a few exceptions and provides for prison sentences of up to ten years for violations. The Jackson abortion clinic had tried to have this law blocked by a court, but failed on Tuesday and is now closing.

This was made possible by the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the “Roe v. Wade” verdict. In doing so, it declared the law in Mississippi constitutional. The decision of the Supreme Court is considered a historic turning point and caused a political earthquake. Because there is no federal law on abortion, states can now largely or completely ban abortion.

This is causing confusion, insecurity and fear in all states of the USA. Since then, extensive restrictions, including bans on abortion, have been in effect in around half of the US states – or they are likely to come into force soon. In the US there is now a patchwork of regulations – and the fear that soon even women could end up in prison. What are the concrete consequences of the new abortion ruling?

There is no federal law in the United States that allows or prohibits abortion. That is why the current decision of the Supreme Court is so drastic. Before the new ruling, abortions were legal across the country at least until the fetus was viable. This ensured, among other things, a landmark 1973 judgment by the court – known as Roe v. Calf. That has now been overturned.

Strict laws immediately came into force in a number of states following the recent change of course. This was made possible by so-called trigger laws: A number of states had already prepared laws for the event that the Supreme Court overturned the right to an abortion. In southern states like Arkansas or Alabama, abortions are now also banned in cases of incest or rape. There are usually only exceptions in the case of medical emergencies.

Even children could be forced to carry a child. “Every single life is precious,” South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said recently when asked whether a child rape victim should have the child. “I don’t think a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy.”

In some states, there was confusion after the verdict as to what actually applies. Because in some places it was not clear which law was in force, as there were several. Women’s rights organizations are taking legal action against the regulations – there is a way through the authorities in the states concerned. Some courts have meanwhile blocked bans and restrictions. There is also controversy over whether constitutions in individual states grant the right to abortion and whether restrictions there would therefore be illegal. The legal tug of war is likely to drag on for years – with legal uncertainties for women.

“It’s going to lead to terrible chaos. And that’s the whole ridiculous thing about it,” said Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia University in New York, in an interview with the German Press Agency. She has been researching the subject for decades.

The ultra-conservative majority of Supreme Court justices argued in their decision that Roe v. In 1973, Wade did not settle the controversy over abortion, but actually fueled it. Sanger counters that the confusion in the States will now lead to major problems. And she sees another danger: that women could be punished for abortions.

Currently, under state law, doctors who perform abortions are usually prosecuted. They often face long prison sentences. However, many opponents of abortion believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder. According to surveys, the majority of the population supports the right to an abortion and opposes the current court decision. However, according to a poll by polling firm Pew in March, 47 percent of people believe that a woman who illegally has an abortion should be punished.

Basically, in the US, the right to travel between states is protected. That means women can theoretically travel to a state where abortion is still legal – including those on the west coast of the country like California or in the northeast like New York. However, if states criminalize women who have had abortions, the judiciary could try to prosecute them on their return. The situation is similar with the abortion pill by mail, which is allowed to be sent under the current Democratic administration of President Joe Biden.

Some warn anti-abortionists’ next target could be the birth control pill. Sanger fears that women who have suffered a miscarriage could also be targeted by investigators. “Well, was it a miscarriage or was it an abortion? That’s a question of proof,” she says. The behavior of women online could also be important.

Searching Google for an abortion clinic, texting a nurse, location services or apps that women use to manage data on their menstrual cycle: investigators could use all of this when they want to prove a woman had an abortion. “It’s hard to say what will happen where, how and when, but the possibilities are quite dangerous,” civil rights attorney Cynthia Conti-Cook told the New York Times.