These are the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States
On November 6th, voters in three states—Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia—will find abortion-related measures on their ballots. While the fight for comprehensive reproductive health care is endless, these midterm elections are especially vital for protecting the future of abortion access in America. Following Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s strongly contested and devastating confirmation to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade is in danger. For the past year, legislators have been attempting to disempower Roe and effectively ban abortion—and now conservative Supreme Court justices have an upper hand.
In Alabama—which already requires a 48-hour waiting period for abortion patients and recently attempted to ban surgical abortion—voters will be deciding the fate of Amendment 2, which protects the “right to life.” If Amendment 2 is passed, as Rewire News explains, legislators will “add language to the state constitution giving a fetus the same rights as a person by declaring that [the state will] ‘recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.’”
So what would that look like? Fetuses, or “unborn children,” would have more rights than a pregnant person. Abortion could be criminalized—as could in-vitro fertilization and various forms of contraception. Additionally, should Amendment 2 pass and the Supreme Court overturn Roe, abortion would be banned throughout the state of Alabama. Amendment 2 doesn’t contain any language outlining exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening complications for the mother.
In Oregon, voters will be weighing in on Measure 106. Rewire News explains that the passage of Measure 106 would “prohibit public funds from paying for abortions in Oregon except in cases of rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, or a threat to the pregnant person’s health.” This would effectively make abortion for women on Medicaid inaccessible, and public employees’ benefits would no longer cover abortion care. Measure 106 is pro-lifers’ response to the recently passed Reproductive Health Equity Act, which provides free abortion and reproductive health care to Oregonians.
Voters in West Virginia are deciding on Amendment 1, also called by this terrifying name: No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment. Rewire News explains that the passage of this amendment would alter the state constitution so that it no longer “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” In action, this would mean banning Medicaid funds for abortion so that low-income women no longer have access to the procedure. Moreover, there is already a law in West Virginia—no longer in effect, thanks to Roe—that would imprison women who get abortions. So if Roe is overturned, the criminalization of abortion would once again be the rule of law in the state.
But what about the restrictive abortion laws that are already on the books?
If abortion is not on the ballot in your state on November 6th, it is just as important to know the restrictions that currently shape abortion access and reproductive health care in your city. That way, you can be sure to vote for pro-choice candidates (NARAL provides a list of pro-choice candidates for the 2018 midterm elections here). Abortion law is overwhelming and ever changing, so HG is here to help you understand which states already enforce (or are trying to enforce) anti-choice bans that endanger women and pregnant people.
When the state’s Republican legislators passed a “fetal heartbeat bill” in May 2018, Iowa was on its way to instating the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The bill aims to ban nearly all abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected—which happens as early as six weeks and is before many women even realize they’re pregnant. The bill, signed by Iowa’s Republican governor Kim Reynolds, was set to go into effect on July 1st. Thankfully, a Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Iowa-led lawsuit resulted in a temporary injunction by a judge. However, the lawsuit is ongoing, so the fight to defeat the bill is not over. And abortion after 20 weeks is still banned unless the mother’s life is threatened.
Mississippi—which already only has one clinic offering abortion services in the entire state—passed another one of the most restrictive laws in the country this year. In March, Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Gestational Age Act into law, making abortion illegal after 15 weeks. Rape and incest survivors are not exempt. The only women who can still access abortion services (at one clinic) must be considered to be at risk of death, or the fetus must be recognized as unable to survive outside the womb.
Like the bill in Iowa, a lawsuit has prevented the Gestational Age Act from going into effect. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the clinic itself have filed a lawsuit challenging the act’s constitutionality, in addition to Mississippi’s 24-hour waiting period for abortion patients and the state’s telemedicine ban. (Telemedicine, if allowed by the state, would let a severely overwhelmed clinic provide more consultations and more frequently administer the abortion pill.)
While the act has been temporarily blocked by a judge, the lawsuit is ongoing. Abortion is still banned after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening pregnancy complications. Moreover, if conservative Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion would be completely banned throughout the state. Check out this New York Times module to see just how many obstacles a person faces when attempting to get an abortion in Mississippi.
Abortion is so restricted in Louisiana that, should the conservative Supreme Court judges overturn Roe v. Wade, the procedure would be completely banned throughout the state. In addition to the 24-hour waiting period for abortion patients in Louisiana, women seeking abortion must go through state-provided “counseling” that attempts to discourage the procedure. Similar to Mississippi, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks. However, it will only go into effect if the pro-choice lawsuit in Mississippi loses. Meanwhile, abortion is still banned after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger.
In 2018, Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky signed a bill into law banning dilation and evacuation abortion procedures after 11 weeks of pregnancy—after already banning abortion after 20 weeks in 2017. Dilation and evacuation abortions are routine, medically safe, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists-approved for abortion patients in their second trimester. The patient’s cervix is dilated and the fetus is suctioned out in the procedure that ACOG actually deems “medically preferred.”
An ACLU-led lawsuit is challenging the legislation, and another lawsuit recently prevented the only abortion clinic in Kentucky from shutting down. Still, women seeking an abortion have to endure a 24-hour waiting period and state-provided “counseling” that aims to discourage them from going through with the abortion.
Abortion is banned after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger. In addition to an 18-hour waiting period, patients must endure state-provided “counseling,” which aims to dissuade the patient from going through with the abortion. Minors also need parental consent to get the procedure. Telemedicine is banned so that women cannot receive abortion consultations or the abortion pill over the phone.
Starting in October 2018, a new state requirement left Missouri with only one clinic that can provide abortion care. The new law, as NPR explains, requires a clinic to “secure admitting privileges at hospitals located within about 15 minutes from their health centers.” Only one clinic in the state is able to meet these requirements, helping pro-life conservatives reduce access to abortion with bureaucratic red tape.
In addition to having to rely on one clinic, abortion patients must also wait 72 hours and go through anti-choice counseling before they can obtain the procedure.
For over two weeks, starting in May 2018, abortions via medication were completely banned in Arkansas, thanks to a new state law. While a state judge was able to suspend the law a month later, state legislators want to reinstate the ban. An Arkansas abortion provider told The New York Times she is “aware that, at any moment, she might have to stop performing abortions again.”
Meanwhile, abortion is also banned after 20 weeks except in cases of rape or incest. Before an abortion is provided, the patient must endure a 48-hour waiting period and state-provided counseling that discourages abortion.
State law mandates that patients seeking abortions must make two separate trips to the clinic. On a patient’s first visit, they have to receive an ultrasound as well as state-mandated documentation which, as the ACLU of Texas explains, contains false information about health risks and fetal development—all to dissuade them from getting an abortion. Then, 24 hours later, the patient can return to the clinic and undergo the procedure.
Abortion is banned after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger. Any abortion after 16 weeks must be performed in a hospital or ambulatory surgical center, creating a medically unnecessary barrier for the patient.
Women seeking abortions in Tennessee must endure a 48-hour waiting period and undergo state “counseling.”
Abortion is banned after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger, and should Roe v. Wade be overturned, abortion would be completely banned throughout the state. Abortion patients must wait 24 hours and undergo “counseling” that advocates pro-life ideology before obtaining the procedure.
Some states require “counseling” and a 72-hour waiting period for abortion patients.
South Dakota will not count weekends or holidays during their 72-hour waiting periods, thus potentially causing an even longer delay. Additionally, South Dakota bans abortion after 20 weeks, and should Roe be overturned, will entirely ban abortion throughout the state.
Not sure where your polling place is on November 6th? Find out here.