Abortion has always been a hot topic in the United States and generally across most countries. In the U.S. people have long had opposite views of whether to allow a fetus to grow to completion or to terminate a pregnancy based on the factors affecting the health and general well-being of a mother.
A big part of discussions about abortion legislation revolves around determining when a fetus is viable outside the womb, and therefore a measure of a “life” on its own. The majority´s opinion in Roe v. Wade defined the viability of a fetus that can live outside the womb even with artificial aid, at around 28 weeks (7 months).
For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, state abortion laws targeted those who performed abortions rather than pregnant women who sought out the procedure. These laws were meant to protect women and their babies from the harm that comes from abortion, and not to prosecute them for their actions.
However, the abortion rights movement gained some traction in the United States during the mid to late 20th century. Most notably, a Connecticut resident, Gerri Santoro, died while trying to obtain an illegal abortion. This event is credited with spurring women’s rights activist groups to learn and develop the skills to safely provide abortions to women who had nowhere else to get the procedure done.
A landmark ruling was realized in 1967 when Colorado was the first state to decriminalize abortion in certain instances such as incest, rape, and when the pregnancy poses a mortal threat to the mother.
Similar laws were passed shortly after in North Carolina, California, and Oregon. Hawaii became the first state to legalize abortion(Ref) requested by pregnant women in 1980, while New York repealed laws that were more than a century old, allowing the termination of pregnancies up to the 24th week.
Roe v. Wade Ruling
On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the legal case Roe v. Wade that the Constitution of the United States generally protected the liberty of pregnant women to choose to have an abortion.
Responses to Recent Reversal of Supreme Court Precedent
On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court reversed the 50-year-old Roe v Wade ruling, which gave women the constitutional right to an abortion. The decision has made it possible for individual states to outlaw the practice, and it is anticipated that half of them will do so soon. A total of thirteen states have already enacted “trigger laws,” which automatically forbid abortion. About 36 million women of reproductive age are anticipated to lose access to abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision. Calling it “a tragic error,” President Joe Biden urged states to pass legislation authorizing the procedure.
Abortion Restrictions by States
A six-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape and incest, was signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in April. However, until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the current 15-week ban, the law cannot go into effect.
Six weeks is when many women discover they are pregnant, so a ban on abortions after that time would affect women in more conservative states in the Southeast who frequently travel to Florida for abortions.
Last year, a 2019 law that forbids abortions when a fetal heartbeat is found, which is typically at six weeks, went into effect. If a police report has been made, there are exceptions for rape and incest.
IDAHO banned abortion. Criminals may spend up to five years behind bars. Those who carried out the abortion can also be sued by those who would have been the fetus’s relatives. Being the first law of its kind in the nation, the state’s separate prohibition on “abortion trafficking” makes it unlawful to assist a minor in getting an abortion in another state or to obtain abortion pills without parental consent.
Indiana also banned abortion. The first state to enact a new abortion prohibition after the Supreme Court’s decision was Indiana. However, due to a legal challenge by abortion providers, the ban, which was passed in August 2022, did not take effect until August 2023. There are exclusions for fatal fetal malformations, rape, incest, and situations where the mother’s health is seriously in danger.
Abortion is still legal up to 22 weeks after a “fetal heartbeat” ban was signed into law in July but was temporarily overturned pending a legal challenge.
Kentucky outlawed abortion. An abortionist faces a maximum five-year prison sentence. For rape or incest, there are no exclusions.
However, a plan to change Kentucky’s constitution to declare that citizens do not have the right to an abortion was rejected by voters.
A $10,000–$100,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison could be imposed on anyone who performs an abortion. For rape and incest, there are no exclusions.
After a woman who was expecting a child without a skull claimed that doctors had denied her a pregnancy termination, the new law gained international attention. Senator Katrina Jackson of Louisiana said that there are legal exceptions for these kinds of situations.
Abortion providers face a maximum 10-year prison sentence. There are exceptions for rape cases.
An abortionist may receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Additionally, medical professionals may lose their licenses. For rape or incest, there are no exclusions.
The state banned abortion after 12 weeks in May. There are exceptions for rape and incest.
A law banning abortion after 12 weeks took effect in July 2022.
There are exceptions in cases of rape and incest, but only for the first six weeks of pregnancy.
On November 7, 2020 citizens cast ballots to include abortion rights in the state constitution, nullifying a previously enacted six-week abortion limit.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, a “fetal heartbeat” ban was implemented in the Republican-led state; however, it was placed on hold while a lawsuit was being handled.
When a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion last year, the ban made national news.
Oklahoma became the first state to outlaw abortion as soon as conception occurred in May 2022. In addition, anyone who assists a woman in ending her pregnancy may be sued by private individuals under the law—which was passed in defiance of Roe v. Wade.
A different trigger ban that went into effect in August 2022 has fines of up to $100,000 and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. For rape or incest, there are no exclusions.
In May, a contentious “fetal heartbeat” ban was approved. In August, the Supreme Court maintained the ban, turning down a lawsuit from the abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia
Abortion is banned in South Dakota and Tennessee. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
In 2021, Texas gained national attention when it overturned Roe v. Wade by passing a “fetal heartbeat” ban. In 2022, a complete ban went into effect. Additionally, patients have the legal right to sue doctors who perform abortions, with a $10,000 reward. The maximum sentence for an abortionist is life in prison. For rape or incest, there are no exclusions. Currently, attempts are being made by Republican state representatives to compel internet service providers to obstruct websites that offer abortion pills or instructions on how to get an abortion.
A Utah judge has blocked a trigger ban pending a legal challenge by Planned Parenthood. In May, he also temporarily blocked a law that would prohibit the licensing of abortion clinics.
After the Supreme Court’s decision, clinics ceased performing abortions for over a year because of doubts about the state’s ability to uphold an 1849 statute that was read to forbid the procedure. Planned Parenthood resumed providing abortions in September despite the ongoing dispute, following a judge’s ruling that the law did not apply to the majority of terminations.
After a legal challenge, a judge temporarily overturned a nearly complete ban, allowing abortion to continue. A different law that would have been the first of its kind in the nation to outlaw the use of abortion pills was set to go into effect in July, but the same judge temporarily blocked it in June.
The United States is undergoing significant changes in abortion rights, marked by the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. This pivotal decision has triggered a wave of restrictive state laws, leading to a fragmented landscape where abortion access is severely limited or banned across the country. States like Florida and Wyoming have implemented laws curtailing reproductive autonomy, some prohibiting abortion as early as six weeks. Varying exceptions for rape and incest exist, with criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment faced by those involved in providing or seeking abortions in certain states. These restrictions have far-reaching consequences, impacting individual choices, exacerbating health disparities, and endangering vulnerable populations.