During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, twelve 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 fetuses in this legislation. The authors collaborated to analyze 13 anti-abortion 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 “non-essential.” Legislation used common anti-abortion tactics, such as 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. Results highlight the vulnerability of abortion and the connection between abortion policy and other conservative policy, and gesture towards a strategic attempt to federally ban abortion. Thus, these findings have several implications for a post-Roe US and for various stakeholders wishing to increase abortion access.

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