During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, 12 states banned or restricted abortion access under elective-procedure restrictions. The rationale was preserving hospital capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE); however, abortions commonly take place in clinics and use less PPE than childbirth. This paper investigates the discursive construction of abortions, the people who get them, and the fetuses in this legislation. The authors analyzed 13 antiabortion documents using an iterative process of thematic coding and memo writing. Twenty-three percent of the legislation listed abortion as banned, whereas the remaining laws implied abortion within the terms “elective” or “nonessential.” Legislation used common antiabortion tactics, such as the trivialization of abortion, risk discourses, and constructions of motherhood and fetal personhood. Discourses delegitimized abortion providers and used quasi-medical justifications for banning abortion. Finally, legislation constructed abortion clinics as sites of contagion and waste and consequently as risks to public health. The results highlight the vulnerability of abortion and the connection between abortion policy and other conservative policies, and they gesture toward a strategic attempt to ban abortion federally. These findings have several implications for a post-Roe United States and for stakeholders wishing to increase abortion access.

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