Abortion laws permit, prohibit, restrict, or regulate the availability of abortion. Abortion is a controversial subject in many countries due to moral, ethical, religious, and political reasons. Teen pregnancies typically have high abortion rates in U.S. states, especially among teens aged 14 years and under.
The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision declared abortion legal throughout all 50 states, as it is in the majority of the world's countries. However, the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the right to legalize or ban abortion to individual states. As a result, abortion was quickly prohibited in more than 20 states, with possible bans in process in several more.
The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision for abortion in the United States. Prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling, abortion was completely prohibited in 30 states and legal only in very specific circumstances in 16 others. However, Roe v. Wade declared those restrictions unconstitutional and forced every state to treat abortion as legal. Roe v. Wade caused a clear divide in the U.S., with residents aligning with either the "pro-choice" (pro-abortion) or "pro-life" (anti-abortion) camps.
The specific case of Roe v. Wade involved a woman living in Texas, using the name "Jane Roe" who became pregnant with her third child but wanted an abortion. Abortion was illegal in Texas except when the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother. Roe hired two attorneys who filed on her behalf against district attorney Henry Wade, alleging that the abortion law was unconstitutional. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in her favor, which was appealed by Texas to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that a woman had the legal right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Moreover, the three trimesters of pregnancy served as a framework for the legal regulations involving abortion.
Nearly 50 years after the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision with a ruling on the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The case centered around a 2018 Mississippi law that banned most instances of abortion after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. The only abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women's Health Organization, filed suit against the state (specifically health official Thomas E. Dobbs), claiming the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (as established in a previous 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey).
As a result of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization enabling each state to individually regulate abortion, roughly half of all U.S. states have moved to either ban or severely restrict the procedure. Several states never removed their pre-Roe bans from their legal code, so those "zombie" bans could again become active once Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Many other states have passed "fetal heartbeat" laws, which ban abortions after the electrical pulses that will become the heartbeat can be detected, which typically occurs roughly six weeks into the pregnancy. These laws would effectively outlaw abortion entirely, as the majority of women do not yet realize they are pregnant at six weeks. While fetal heartbeat bills were nullified by Roe v. Wade, they can now enter into effect.
Moreover, 13 states had previously passed "trigger laws." These are laws that were written and passed before the Dobbs decision (the earliest was passed by South Dakota in 2005) with the intention that they would enter into effect instantly if and when Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Information in this section is provided by the Guttmacher Institute:
Below is a list of each state's abortion laws, including newly passed legislation that has not yet gone into effect.
Alabama currently has two different abortion bans on the books. The first is a "zombie" ban that pre-dates Roe v. Wade, prohibits abortions except when the mother's life is at risk, and charges violators with up to $1,000 and a year in prison. The second ban, passed on May 14, 2019, similarly, outlaws all abortions except when the mother's health is in danger or the fetus could not survive outside the womb. However, this second ban carries penalties of up to 99 years for those who illegally provide an abortion. Exactly which law goes into effect remains to be seen.
Abortion in Alaska is legal. A licensed physician must perform the procedure. Patients under 17 must attain parental consent. 2019's House Bill 178 would have banned legal abortion in Alaska, with no exceptions made for the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest. However, the bill was withdrawn.
Abortion is illegal in Arizona in all cases except when the mother's life is in danger. However, the state currently has two competing anti-abortion laws, making the details difficult to discern.
Before Roe v. Wade, Arizona had banned abortion in every case except when necessary to save the life of the mother. That "zombie" law was never removed from the state's legal code. However, a new abortion law that banned the procedure after 15 weeks was on track to go into effect in the fall of 2022. It will likely be up to the courts to determine which ban will take precedence.
In 2021, Arkansas lawmakers passed a trigger law that would immediately ban all abortions in the state, with the exception of cases in which the mother's life is in danger. This law went into effect upon the confirmation by state officials that Roe vs Wade had been overturned in 2022. Doctors who perform abortions in Arkansas will now face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
The Arkansas law does not include exceptions for cases of rape and incest, Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) has indicated the state may consider adding those exceptions in the future. Exceptions for rape, incest, and medical emergencies were present in the state's previous abortion law, which banned abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy.
California abortion laws are less restrictive than most of the other states. Abortion in California is legal. Nurse-midwives and other non-physician medical professionals are permitted to perform the procedure as long as they have proper training. Public state universities are required to provide students with the abortion pill, Mifepristone, at no cost.
Shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned, California lawmakers proposed an amendment to the California constitution that would guarantee Californians' access to abortion and contraception. The amendment was voted upon in the 2022 midterm election and passed, making abortion a constitutional right for all Californians.
Abortion in Colorado is legal. There are no laws restricting access to the procedure and no laws protecting a woman's right to it. Both parents (with exceptions) or the legal guardian(s) of a woman under 18 must be given notice before an abortion. A 2008 attempt to amend the state's constitution and grant personhood to a fetus from the moment of conception (which would effectively outlaw abortion) garnered a "no" vote from 73.2% of voters.
Although Connecticut passed the first abortion restrictions in the United States in 1821, the state's current laws ensure that abortion is legal up to the point at which the baby would be viable outside of the womb (at roughly 24-28 weeks). Connecticut's law further states that abortion is a decision that belongs solely to the pregnant woman. Abortions must be performed by a licensed physician.
Delaware abortion laws state that abortion before the viability of the fetus is legal. A licensed physician must do the procedure. Women under the age of 18 or who are mentally ill or incompetent must have parental consent. Two proposed bills have not made it to a floor vote: one that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and one that gives a woman the chance to receive an ultrasound of the fetus before the procedure.
Washington D.C.'s abortion laws are among the least restrictive in the United States. Abortions are legal in the District of Columbia and do not need to be performed by a licensed physician. There is no ban on abortions at any stage of pregnancy.
Florida abortion laws state abortion is legal before 24 weeks of pregnancy. A woman must receive an ultrasound before the procedure, and a licensed physician must perform the procedure. A parent or legal guardian must be notified if the patient is a minor.
Florida's official stance on abortion may well change soon. Current abortion permissions are based on the state constitution's clause, "Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from government intrusion into the person's private life." Despite this protection, attempts were made to ban abortion in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and two "fetal heartbeat" bills (FL H0235 and FL S0792) were considered, but defeated in 2019. In light of these developments, additional attempts to place restrictions on abortion in Florida can be expected.
Georgia abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the nation—if they are allowed to take effect. On May 7, 2019, Georgia passed a "fetal heartbeat" law, which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. While the law could not go into effect at the time thanks to Roe v. Wade, it is now legally enforceable. Exceptions are made for mothers whose lives are at risk due to the pregnancy and in cases of rape or incest if a police report is filed. A licensed physician must do the procedure, and the physician has the right to refuse to participate.
Hawaii abortion laws state that abortion is legal before the viability of the fetus, and even after viability if the health of the mother is at risk. A licensed physician must perform the procedure.
Idaho had a trigger law in place scheduled to take effect 30 days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The law banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or a concern for the mother's health. The penalty for doctors who perform an illegal abortion is 2-5 years in prison. The Idaho law may become more strict over time, as some lawmakers have pushed to remove the exceptions and reclassify abortion as felony murder.
Illinois's Reproductive Health Act, enacted on June 12, 2019, states that women have a fundamental right to abortion, and insurers are required to cover abortions and other reproductive health services. Abortions are legal up to 24 weeks (viability) and can be done after viability if the woman's life is in danger. A licensed physician must perform the procedure. Except in special cases, patients who are minors must inform a parent or guardian but are not required to obtain parental consent.
Indiana abortion laws state that abortion is legal up to 22 weeks if performed by a doctor during the first trimester of pregnancy or in a hospital or surgical center before a fetus is viable. After viability, abortion is only allowed to protect the mother's health and must be done in a premature birth unit with a second physician present. Minors must get parental consent. Finally, starting in 2021, patients must undergo mandatory counseling and view an ultrasound at least 18 hours before the abortion procedure.
Iowa passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill in 2018 that banned abortions once a heartbeat could be detected (roughly six weeks into a pregnancy), which would effectively ban abortions in the state. At the time, the Iowa Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional, but Governor Kim Reynolds (R) and the state's Republican leaders have asked the court (to which Reynolds has appointed four judges) to overturn the judgment. Regardless of the outcome, Iowa legislators are expected to pass more restrictive laws than those currently in place.
Current Iowa abortion laws state that abortion is legal within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, a licensed physician must do the procedure, and patients under the age of 18 must notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before the abortion takes place.
Kansas's abortion laws state that abortion is legal within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A licensed physician must do the procedure. There is a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for the procedure, during which a woman must receive counseling and notification of services and must consent to a mandatory ultrasound.
It appears likely that Kansas will soon implement additional restrictions on abortion. Multiple attempts to install stricter regulations (such as a "fetal heartbeat" bill) have passed, but have been struck down by the courts. In April 2019, the state's Supreme Court ruled that the right to abortion is guaranteed by the state's bill of rights (even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned). Abortion opponents prepared a constitutional amendment that was voted down by the public in the 2022 midterm elections.
A 2019 trigger law in Kentucky immediately outlawed abortion in all situations (including rape and incest) except when the mother's life is threatened. Kentucky had previously (March 19, 2019) passed a "heartbeat" law that banned abortions after six weeks (the period at which a fetus' heart begins to beat), but the law was struck down in court.
Passed in 2006, Louisiana's trigger law banned all abortions, with the exception of those that could save the mother's life, the moment Roe v. Wade was overturned. Those who perform an illegal abortion are subject to fines of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Abortion supporters mounted a legal challenge that has blocked the law from going into effect until a July 8th hearing.
An additional bill would have enabled the state to charge women who obtained an abortion with murder, but it failed to pass. Louisiana's previous abortion law, passed on May 30, 2019, banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy or the detection of the baby's heartbeat (whichever came first) and made no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Maine abortion laws state that abortion is legal prior to viability (approximately 24 weeks). As of June 2019, it is now legal for nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, and other professional medical providers, in addition to physicians, to perform the procedure. Maine now requires public and private insurance plans that cover prenatal care to cover abortions.
Maryland abortion laws state that abortions are legal prior to viability (approximately 24 weeks). A licensed physician must do the procedure. A parent or guardian must be notified for minor patients, except if the physician believes notice might lead to physical or emotional abuse of the patient.
Massachusetts abortion laws state that abortions are legal prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy and under a physician's best judgment that the procedure is necessary. A licensed physician must do the procedure. Minors must have consent from either both parents or legal guardians.
Abortion was made illegal in Michigan in 1931, with the only exception being cases in which the mother's life was at risk. Although Roe v. Wade rendered that law inactive, it could have become a "zombie" law and again come into effect once RvW was overturned.
Existing Michigan abortion laws state that abortions are legal prior to viability (approximately 24 weeks). A pregnant woman must wait 24 hours before the procedure to receive counseling and information on the procedure. Minors must receive consent from a parent or legal guardian. In cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, public funding is available. Michigan is another state that added a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to an abortion during the 2022 midterm elections.
Minnesota abortion laws state that abortions are legal prior to viability (approximately 24 weeks). A licensed physician must do the procedure, and a second physician must be present for an abortion after the 20th week. Minors must have a parent or legal guardian notified before an abortion. There is a 24-hour waiting period after the woman receives mandatory counseling about the procedure.
Mississippi's 2007 trigger law went into effect 10 days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. The law banned abortion in all cases except for instances of rape or times when the pregnancy puts the mother's life at risk.
Mississippi had previously passed a "heartbeat" law that prohibited abortions after either six weeks of pregnancy (or earlier if a “heartbeat” could be detected), but it was blocked by a federal judge. Earlier Mississippi abortion laws stated that abortion was legal before 20 weeks of pregnancy—however, those seeking abortions were required to undergo pre-abortion counseling, submit a mandatory ultrasound, listen to the fetus' heartbeat, and (if underaged) inform both parents of their intent to obtain an abortion.
In 2019, Missouri passed a trigger law that banned abortion in all cases except those in which the mother's health was threatened. The law did not automatically go into effect once Roe v. Wade was overturned, but required only a confirmation from the state's governor, attorney general, or legislature. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt provided that confirmation within minutes of the Dobbs decision's announcement.
Under Missouri's law, abortion is now a felony and providers who perform an illegal abortion are subject to a prison sentence of 5-15 years. However, the law also states that a woman who obtains an abortion cannot be held criminally liable.
Abortion is legal in Montana up until viability (24-28 weeks). Minors under the age of 16 must have a parent or legal guardian notified at least 48 hours prior to the procedure. The procedure must be performed by licensed physicians currently, but some advanced-practice clinicians provide abortion services.
Montana protects a woman's right to an abortion in its state constitution. However, current legislators have indicated a desire to implement a ban if they thought the state Supreme Court would approve it.
Nebraska abortion laws state that abortions are legal before 22 weeks of pregnancy. A licensed physician must do the procedure. There is a 24-hour waiting period for each woman, during which a woman must receive counseling on the procedure, except in an emergency. Minors under the age of 19 must have consent from a parent or guardian. In an unusual development, a small number of Nebraska towns have passed local ordinances that outlaw abortion in contrast to the state's policies.
Nevada abortion laws authorize abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions after 24 weeks are allowed only if to preserve the life or health of the mother. A licensed physician must do the procedure. Minors must have one parent or guardian notified before the procedure.
New Hampshire abortion law states that abortions are legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy; after which it is prohibited with no exception for rape, incest, or fetal anomalies. The procedure does not need to be performed by a licensed physician, but patients are required to undergo an ultrasound in all cases. Minors must get written consent from a parent or guardian at least 48 hours prior to the procedure. Abortion providers are subject to criminal ligation and may be sued by the father.
New Jersey abortion laws state that abortions are legal at all stages of pregnancy. The procedure must be performed in a hospital or specialized facility and a "licensed hospital" after 14 weeks of pregnancy. There is no required waiting period, parental consent, or ultrasound.
Abortion is legal in New Mexico throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy. For more than 50 years, New Mexico state laws included an abortion ban from 1969, which had been made unenforceable by Roe v. Wade in 1973. That law was repealed in February 2021, removing any confusion as to the legality of abortion in the state. While only licensed physicians in licensed hospitals can perform an abortion in New Mexico, the state has no requirements regarding parental notification, waiting periods, or counseling.
According to New York state law, abortions are legal until the fetus is viable outside the womb (roughly the first 24-28 weeks of pregnancy), and may be obtained past that time when necessary to protect a woman's life or health. Abortions are part of the state's health care system and are publicly funded, although legislators may act to limit the use of public funds to pay for the abortions of patients who come from other states to obtain the procedure. The procedure can be conducted by any health care practitioner that is licensed and qualified to perform the procedure, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and midwives.
North Carolina abortion laws state that abortions are legal until the fetus reaches viability (24-28 weeks into the pregnancy). After that time, abortions can still be attained if the mother's health or life is at risk. A licensed physician must perform the procedure in a licensed hospital or clinic. Minors need written consent from a parent or guardian.
Thanks to a 2007 trigger law that went into effect with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortions were rendered completely illegal in North Dakota (except for when the mother's health is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest) 30 days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, pending confirmation from the state's attorney general. Anyone who performs an illegal abortion could be charged with a felony and given up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
North Dakota's previous abortion laws stated that abortions were legal during the first 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy. A licensed physician was required for the procedure and minors were required to notify their parents or guardians at least 24 hours before consenting to the procedure.
On April 11, 2019, Ohio passed a "fetal heartbeat" law that banned abortions after six weeks or whenever a “heartbeat” can be detected. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, but it allows exceptions if the woman's life is at risk. The heartbeat law was prevented from going into effect by Roe v. Wade, but it can now be actively enforced. Moreover, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) has indicated that this law could soon be replaced by a total abortion ban.
Once Roe v. Wade was overturned, Oklahoma's 2022 trigger law immediately prohibited all abortions (except those needed to save the mother's life) in what is arguably the country's most stringent abortion ban. The penalty for performing an illegal abortion is 2-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Moreover, as in Texas, the law enables private citizens (even those who have no connection to the patient) to file lawsuits against abortion providers.
Oregon abortion laws state that abortion is fully legal and protected under the state's constitution. Oregon has no legislative restrictions on abortion.
Pennsylvania abortion laws state that abortion is legal up to the point of viability, which is defined as 24 weeks in state law. The procedure must be performed by a licensed physician at a licensed hospital or facility. Patients must receive counseling about the procedure and wait 24 hours before getting the abortion done. Minors must receive consent from a parent.
Rhode Island abortion laws state that abortion is legal before viability and is a fundamental right. Minors must get written consent from at least one parent. The procedure, if surgical (as opposed to medicinal), must be done by a licensed physician.
South Carolina has an existing "fetal heartbeat" bill, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy when a fetal “heartbeat” can be detected. Exceptions are made in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's health. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that law is free to come into effect. The legislature is further expected to consider more extensive bans in the coming months and years.
Previous abortion law in South Carolina prohibited abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. A licensed physician was required in order to perform the procedure during a first-trimester abortion, and a licensed physician in a licensed clinic or hospital was required during a second-trimester abortion.
South Dakota's trigger law, passed in 2005, was the first in the nation. The law immediately banned all abortions, except when required to save the life of the mother, upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which took place in June 2022. The law bans both surgical abortions and those induced with medication. At the time of the law's implementation, the punishment for performing an illegal abortion is up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. Governor Kristi Noem (R) has indicated the legislature may consider implementing additional restrictions, such as barriers to companies seeking to pay for employees' out-of-state abortions.
Designed to take effect 30 days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Tennessee's 2019 trigger law banned abortion in all cases except when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. Providers of illegal abortions can face prison sentences of 3-15 years and fines of up to $10,000. Further, at the request of Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Tennessee circuit court also lifted an injunction that blocked a previous six-week abortion ban from coming into effect.
A trigger law in Texas outlawed all abortions other than those required to save the pregnant woman's life. It makes no exception for cases of rape or incest. Those who provide illegal abortions may be sentenced to life in prison and fined a minimum of $100,000. However, the law was swiftly blocked by a legal challenge that put its enforcement on hold until a July 12th hearing.
It is not yet entirely clear how Texas' newly active trigger law lines up with its existing regulations, which include "zombie" pre-Roe bans (which could arguably be in effect despite the legal challenge to the trigger law), a more recent "fetal heartbeat" six-week ban, and the ability of private citizens to sue anyone they know has performed or aided in an abortion, from the doctor to the person who drove the patient to the airport, for up to $10,000.
Initially passed in 2020, Utah's trigger law bans abortion in almost every case. The only legal exceptions are instances of rape or incest (which must have been reported to law enforcement authorities), cases in which the mother's life is in danger, or times when the fetus or baby has such a severe deformation that it either cannot survive outside the womb or will survive in a vegetative state. Violators of the abortion ban risk 1-15 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000.
Utah's trigger law required a state official to confirm that Roe v. Wade had been overturned in order for the law to enter into effect. While that confirmation did occur, Planned Parenthood challenged the law in court, which resulted in a two-week restraining order enabling abortions to continue legally until mid-July.
Utah's previous abortion law banned abortions once the fetus had become viable (after 24 weeks as a rule), though abortions were legal after viability if the mother's life was at risk, if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or if the fetus had a lethal defect. A licensed physician must do the procedure. Patients must wait 72 hours after informed consent to get the procedure done. Minors must give notice to parents or guardians if unmarried.
On June 10, 2019, Vermont signed a law making abortion a fundamental right under state law. As in California, Vermont voters will have the opportunity in late 2022 to approve an amendment that would add abortion protections to the state constitution. Abortions in Vermont are legal at any stage of pregnancy for any reason. The procedure can be performed by a licensed physician or another qualified medical professional such as a midwife or nurse practitioner. There is no waiting period, parental involvement, or counseling restrictions. Every abortion is to be reported to the Vermont Department of Health within seven days for data-collection purposes.
Abortion is permitted in Virginia through the second trimester of pregnancy (until roughly week 28), but banned in the third trimester unless the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother's health or life or the fetus is non-viable or severely deformed. The procedure can be performed by any qualified health professional and minors must receive consent from a parent or guardian.
Many additional restrictions, such as the requirement that the patient undergoes an ultrasound, were lifted in 2020 by then-Governor Ralph Northam (D). However, current Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has asked state legislators to begin drafting a ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
Washington abortion laws permit abortion up to the point of fetal viability (roughly 24-28 weeks) and at any point in the pregnancy if the mother's life or health is at risk. Surgical abortions must be performed by a licensed physician in a hospital. Minors are not required to receive consent or give notice to have the procedure done.
West Virginia's "zombie" abortion ban dates back to the 19th century and prohibits all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother. While it was rendered dormant by Roe v. Wade, it can now re-enter into force. The law carries a penalty of 3-10 years of prison for abortion providers (and charges them with murder in the event of the patient's death). With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, West Virginia's zombie law could (and likely will) be supplemented or replaced by additional, more punitive regulations, likely with steeper penalties.
Wisconsin's zombie abortion law first went into effect in 1849, was nullified by Roe v. Wade in 1973, and is now back in effect. It outlaws abortion except when the mother's life is endangered and punishes violators with up to 10 years in prison.
While the state's current attorney general (John Kaul (D)) has stated he has no plans to enforce the ban, he is also powerless to keep local-level prosecutors from doing so. Many Republican candidates for state office have further stated that they will support stricter enforcement and additional abortion restrictions if the balance of power tips in their favor in the 2022 midterm elections.
Wyoming lawmakers passed a trigger law in early 2022 that would enter into effect five days after the governor legally certified that Roe v. Wade had been overturned (a process that could take more than a month in and of itself). The law outlawed nearly all abortions in the state, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and life-threatening risk to the mother, and was expected to enter into force by fall 2022.
Previous Wyoming abortion laws held that abortions were legal prior to fetal viability. The procedure could only be performed by a licensed physician and minors were required to receive parental consent at least 48 hours prior to the procedure.