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State of the unborn: where life will be legally protected after Roe

ABORTION

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John Burger - published on 06/24/22 - updated on 06/24/22

A state-by-state guide to laws that will go into effect after Dobbs decision.

With the overruling of Roe v. Wadeand Planned Parenthood v. Casey, abortion’s legality and regulation returns to the state level, where it was before January 22, 1973. That will result in laws as varied as Colorado, where the procedure will be legal all the way up to birth, and Alabama’s where it will be illegal from conception.

Abortion is expected to be illegal or severely restricted in about half of the states.

Some of those state laws are already on the books, and some are going into effect because Roe was overturned, while some will take effect after a waiting period. Some states still have to work out their post-Roe legislation.

In some states, even if the laws generally protect unborn life, some state officials who are opposed to overturning Roe have said they will not enforce the pro-life laws. On June 23, as the nation awaited the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, Vice President Kamala Harris huddled with a small group of Democratic state attorneys general to discuss ways they might continue to protect the right to abortion.

Here is the latest information on what state abortion laws will look like:

ALABAMA

A total ban on abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest, was enacted in May, but a judge blocked the law. The law, which makes an exception in the case of a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother, for ectopic pregnancy or if the unborn child has a lethal anomaly, could now go into effect within weeks or months.

ALASKA

Alaska’s law, permitting abortion all through pregnancy, is not likely to change any time soon. The state’s high court has recognized “reproductive choice” under its constitution.

ARIZONA

Arizona had a ban on abortion from before 1973 that was never taken off the books, in spite of Roe. But Republican Gov. Douglas A. Ducey said that a new law, banning abortion after 15 weeks with an exception for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest, will take precedence and will take effect in September.

ARKANSAS

Passed a so-called “trigger law,” allowing a total ban without exceptions for rape or incest, to take effect within days of the demise of Roe. 

CALIFORNIA

Lawmakers recently introduced bills to make the state a “sanctuary” state for women seeking abortions. It is legal until viability. It’s possible that in November, voters will be able to amend the state constitution to add “a fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.”

COLORADO

Colorado enacted a Reproductive Health Equity Act in April, allowing for abortion from conception until birth and for any reason, including the child’s race, sex, or a disability. “A fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state,” it declares.

CONNECTICUT

Connecticut recently enacted a bill expanding access to providers and shielding providers and patients from out-of-state lawsuits for having or performing an abortion. It is due to take effect July 1. Abortion is legal until viability. 

DELAWARE

Delaware allows abortion until viability. A new law expands patient access to providers.

FLORIDA

A recently-enacted ban after 15 weeks gestation will take effect July 1. It allows for abortions for medical emergencies or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality, but not for rape, incest, or human trafficking.

GEORGIA

Georgia enacted a ban after six weeks, but a court blocked it. The state filed an appeal, and a court stayed the case pending the outcome of Dobbs.

HAWAII

Hawaii allows abortion until viability. A new law expands patient access to providers.

IDAHO

A trigger law bans nearly all abortions and will take effect within 30 days.

ILLINOIS

Illinois allows abortion up until viability, and the state’s high court has recognized that its constituion protects the right to abortion. State law also protects the procedure.

INDIANA

Indiana prohibits abortion after 22 weeks, but in March, a majority of legislators called on the governor to call for a special session if Roe is overturned – in order to consider new abortion restrictions.

IOWA

Abortion opponents are likely to seek enforcement of a six-week limit on abortions, which was permanently blocked by a judge. In June, the state’s high court overruled a 2018 decision that said the right to abortion was protected under the state contitution.

KANSAS

Kansans will go to the polls August 2 to decide a referendum on whether their state constitution should be amended to say it contains no right to abortion. Previously, the state’s high court ruled that that constitution protects a pregnant woman’s right to “personal autonomy.”

KENTUCKY

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest, will go into effect immediately.

LOUISIANA

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest, will go into effect immediately.

MAINE

State law protects abortion, which is legal up until viability.

MARYLAND

Maryland allows abortion until viability. A new law, which goes into effect July 1, allows any “qualified provider,” not just a physician, to perform the procedure. It also requires most insurance plans to cover it.

MASSACHUSETTS

Abortion is legal until 24 weeks in Massachusetts. Not only has the state’s high court recognized the right to abortion under its constitution, the legislature recently enacted laws to protect abortion and expand access.

MICHIGAN

Michigan has a law still on the books from before Roe that bans nearly all abortions, but it has been blocked in state court. The Democratic governor and attorney general have said they would not enforce the ban. There’s a possibility that a referendum in November could allow voters to add a pro-abortion amendment to the state constitution.

MINNESOTA

Minnesota allows abortion until viability. The state’s high court has recognized the right to abortion under its constitution.

MISSISSIPPI

The Dobbs case that led to the overturn of Roe concerned a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks gestation. But the state also has a trigger law that bans nearly all abortions. It will take effect within days. 

MISSOURI

A trigger law will ban nearly all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It will take effect within days.

MONTANA

The state’s high court ruled that its constitution protects the right to abortion, but opponents are likely to seek the enforcement of a state ban on the procedure after 20 weeks gestation. 

NEBRASKA

Republican Gov. John Peter Ricketts has said he will call a special session to pass a total ban on abortion is Roe is overturned. A trigger ban failed in the legislature earlier this year.

NEVADA

State law protects abortion, and it is legal until viability. Since it was affirmed by voters, it can be changed only through a voter referendum. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire repealed a pre-Roe ban in 1997. Though abortion is not expressly protected by state law, it will most likely stay legal through 24 weeks gestation.

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey places no gestational limit on the procedure. Democratic Gov. Philip D. Murphy has proposed making the state a “sanctuary state” for women seeking abortions.

NEW MEXICO

New Mexico imposes no gestational limit on abortion. It is not expressly protected by state law, but it will most likely stay accessible. Courts have not determined whether the state constitution projects abortion rights. 

NEW YORK

New York allows abortion until viability. A new law, which took immediate effect in June, protects abortion providers from legal actions coming from other states. Legislators have proposed other protections, including an amendment to the State Constitution.

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina had a pre-Roe law banning nearly all abortions, but in 1973 it was modified to allow abortion up to 20 weeks. That ban was not in effect, but abortion opponents might seek its enforcement. 

NORTH DAKOTA

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions will take effect in 30 days.

OHIO

Ohio enacted a ban on abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It is temporarily blocked in court, but abortion opponsents are likely to seek its enforcement.

OKLAHOMA

In May, Oklahoma passed legislation to prohibit nearly all abortions, beginning at fertilization. It has exceptions for medical emergencies, rape and incest. Like the law in Texas, Oklahoma allows ordinary citizens to enforce the law. The state also has a trigger law.

OREGON

Oregon places no gestational limit on abortion. The legislature recently approved $15 million to support women seeking the procedure.

PENNSYLVANIA

State law does not protect the right to abortion. Democratic Gov. Thomas W. Wolf has vetoed restrictions enacted by Republicans, who currently control the legislature.

RHODE ISLAND

State law protects abortion, and it is legal until viability.

SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina enacted a ban on abortion after six weeks. A court blocked it, and the state filed an appeal. A court stayed the case pending the outcome of Dobbs.

SOUTH DAKOTA

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest, takes effect immediately.

TENNESSEE

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest, takes effect in about 30 days.

TEXAS

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions, with exceptions only if a mother’s life is at risk, but not for rape or incest, takes effect in 30 days. This will supersede Texas’ heartbeat law, which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which is around six weeks. That law also allowed private citizens to sue anyone providing or facilitating an abortion.

UTAH

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions takes effect within days.

VERMONT

Vermont places no gestational limit on abortion. In November, voters will go to the polls to decide if the state constitution should add a “right to personal reproductive autonomy.” Pro-life advocates say such a move would make it extremely difficult to ever pass laws protecting unborn life. 

VIRGINIA

Power in Virginia’s legislature is split pretty evenly between Republicans and Democrats, so any attempts to restrict abortion from its current status – allowed up until viability – are likely not going to get anywhere at least until the next election, in 2023. 

WASHINGTON

The State of Washington allows abortion until viability. Recently passed laws expand patient access to abortion providers.

WEST VIRGINIA

Voters approved an amendment to the state’s Constitution that denies any right to abortion. Lawmakers could use that to enact a total ban on abortion. 

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin has a pre-Roe ban on nearly all abortions, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul have said they would not enforce the ban. 

WYOMING

A trigger law banning nearly all abortions will take effect within 30 days.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Abortion in the nation’s capital is legal without any gestational limit. City government plans to strengthen the right, but Congress ultimately oversees the city’s laws. 

Sources: Reuters, New York Times

Tags:
AbortionPro-life
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