Abortion Laws in America: How does your state compare?

It’s hard to find a more controversial topic in the United States than abortion rights. Ever since the Supreme Court issued a decision on Roe v. Wade, various groups have battled to change or protect the laws on record. Christian groups in particular have worked to restrict or outlaw abortions, claiming there are religious restrictions against abortion in the Bible that justify their cause.

States have instituted a several laws regulating abortion, including laws stating that:

  • Minors need to inform their parents or seek permission before obtaining an abortion.
  • Women seeking abortions must look at an ultrasound.
  • Women must go through a waiting period before getting an abortion.

Wondering what abortion rights and restrictions are in place in your state? Take a look at the following abortion laws.

Abortion Cut-Off Dates

Many states have different regulations in place regarding the cut-off date for legal abortions. A majority of states allow second-trimester abortions, with most states placing the cut-off date at 22 weeks. However, a handful of states also allow third-trimester abortions only in special circumstances. The following states allow abortion clinics to perform the procedure into the third trimester:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • Vermont

Many anti-abortion advocates have claimed that a 2019 law passed in New York legalized “full-term abortions.” However, the law did not remove limitations on abortion. Instead, it said that pregnant women can seek abortions when there is no fetal viability or a physician decides it is necessary for the life and health of the patient. That means pregnant individuals cannot independently seek an abortion past the state’s general 24-week cut-off date.

Some states have passed laws that intentionally violate the Roe v. Wade ruling as part of a strategy to force lawsuits that bring abortion cases to the Supreme Court. Lawmakers in these states hope that bringing their cases before the Supreme Court will result in Roe v. Wade being overturned, limiting abortion rights nationally.

These states limit elective abortions to eight weeks or six weeks. Some have even tried to ban the procedure entirely. States include:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Ohio

Legal and Illegal Procedures

There are 20 states that have laws banning “partial-birth abortions,” which are more accurately known as “dilation and extraction” or D and E abortions. This procedure is exceedingly rare, and typically only used after a late-term miscarriage or when severe abnormalities are discovered late into the pregnancy.

Nevertheless, nearly half of American states have taken steps to ban this procedure. Three states ban this procedure only when the fetus has reached the point of viability outside of the womb, while 17 states ban it regardless of the viability of the fetus.

However, there are multiple methods to obtain a therapeutic abortion that remain legal throughout the United States (therapeutic abortion is the medical term for an induced procedure, as opposed to spontaneous abortion, which is the medical term for a miscarriage).

For example, the vacuum aspiration procedure most common for first trimester abortions remains legal in all states, as does the medically induced abortion procedure. Medical abortions or D and E abortions may also be used in the case of a missed abortion, also known as a miscarriage where the body fails to evacuate the fetus.

Trigger Laws in Place

Numerous states have trigger laws in place that will go into effect if and when Roe v. Wade is struck down by the Supreme Court. These laws would restrict or remove abortion rights entirely the moment the Supreme Court issues a decision that would allow states to do so. The following states have trigger laws in place:

  • Arkansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee

Some of these states have also passed unconstitutional laws in an effort to go to the Supreme Court. Others, like Tennessee, have chosen not to use these strategies in order to avoid expensive lawsuits.

Laws Targeting Abortion Providers

When revoking abortion rights fails, some states turn instead to the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, also known as TRAP laws. These laws attempt to make it difficult or impossible for abortion providers to operate in a state. For example, some may require abortion providers to meet the state’s requirements for surgical providers even though abortions typically do not require complex surgery. Others may require physicians to carry admitting privileges in hospitals even though few abortions require additional or emergency medical treatment.

TRAP laws are designed to restrict what medical professionals can perform abortions. Unfortunately, these strategies sometimes make women more likely to turn to internet recommendations, such as attempting vitamin C abortions (it is a common belief that consuming large amounts of vitamin C induces a miscarriage — however, there is little to no science to back up this claim).

If you wonder, “Why can’t I find an abortion clinic near me?” you may live in one of the states where TRAP laws have gone into effect. A handful of TRAP states have only one provider left:

  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky

In many cases, states may attempt to close down abortion clinics in an effort to redirect individuals to pregnancy crisis clinics instead. These are often Christian-based organizations that tell visitors about the risks of abortion in a way that many critics have called “inaccurate.” For example, they may claim that pregnancy after an abortion is difficult or impossible to achieve.

Pregnant individuals seeking an abortion must therefore confirm whether they are visiting an abortion provider or one of these pregnancy crisis clinics instead before booking an appointment.

The Fight Against Planned Parenthood

One of the largest abortion providers in the United States is Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that focuses on reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood performed abortions for over 300,000 patients in 2018.

Although abortions make up a relatively small fraction of the total medical services that the organization provides, anti-abortion activitists have targeted Planned Parenthood in an attempt to defund or shut it down to minimize abortions. Protests outside Planned Parenthood offices also take place regularly.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued a new rule that forbids any organization receiving federal funds from referring patients for abortions. This rule directly targeted Planned Parenthood, which received the largest share of federal funds of any organization funded through the Title X program.

In response, Planned Parenthood chose to reject federal funds rather than halt abortion referrals, arguing that it could not provide comprehensive reproductive care if it could not offer patients all the available options. As a result, the organization has seen a notable decrease in funding. However, it continues to operate on private donations.

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