In 1973, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas law banning abortion and effectively legalized the procedure nationwide in a decision known as Roe v. Wade.
In the decades since that landmark ruling, the anti-abortion movement has sought to overthrow Roe and restore states’ ability to restrict or even ban abortion. Activists, meanwhile, have regained some lost ground, helping state legislatures pass 1,336 abortion restrictions in the 49 years since Roe, including 44% in the last decade alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights.
Following the recent addition of three conservative justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, which gave the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority, many Republican-led states have begun passing laws on the even more restrictive abortions in order to trigger lawsuits that would make their case. before the high court to challenge Roe.
One such case, a recent challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, looks set to succeed. A leaked draft of the High Court’s majority opinion suggests that enough judges have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
A final decision is not expected until the end of the summer and it is important to note that it could change before the nine-member tribunal issues it. But if the ruling stands, the country will be divided into states that allow the procedure and those that severely restrict or ban it altogether.
Meanwhile, polls show that a majority of the public favors legalizing abortion in most or all cases.
Here’s a look at the impact that Roe v. Wade had on the states, what restrictions have since been introduced, and where the abortion laws stand in each state:
How Roe v. Did Wade affect abortion rights?
Prior to Roe, many women who wanted abortions – for whatever reason – were forced to undergo illegal or self-induced abortions that often resulted in serious infections, hospitalizations and, in some cases, death. By the late 1960s, Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington had repealed their abortion bans entirely, while a dozen others were expanding exceptions, according to Planned Parenthood.
Yet abortion was out of reach for most women, especially low-income minorities who could not afford to travel for surgery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died. From 1972 to 1974, the death rate from illegal abortion for non-white women was 12 times that of white women, according to the CDC.
Writing for the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, Judge Harry Blackmun said the court held that a woman’s right to an abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. However, while the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman’s right to choose, it also recognized the state’s interest in protecting the “potential of human life”.
To balance competing interests, the court established a “quarterly” framework for the legality of abortions:
- First trimester (up to 12 weeks): Gives a woman the absolute right to an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.
- Second trimester (up to 28 weeks): allows the government to regulate abortion to protect the health of the mother, but cannot prohibit it.
- Third trimester (up to 40 weeks): Since the fetus is considered “viable” (it can survive on its own outside the womb (about 24 weeks of pregnancy)), states may prohibit abortion, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
What restrictions on abortion have been enacted since Roe v. Wade?
Many states have sought to circumvent Roe by imposing procedural hurdles on women seeking abortions, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly been tasked with deciding whether these restrictions violate a woman’s right to privacy.
Then, in 1992, the trimester framework was overturned in a decision in the Supreme Court case known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Although the judges reaffirmed a woman’s right to an abortion under Roe, they also gave states more leeway to regulate them in all three trimesters.
The court ruled that for a plaintiff to succeed in a constitutional challenge, it must be shown that the law they are challenging has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden”, defined as an “impediment substantial on the way to a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus reaches viability.” This meant that states could pass regulations that affected the ability to have the procedure even in the first trimester under the guise of protecting the women’s health Under this new test, many restrictions on abortion have been confirmed.
Among the laws and policies in place as a condition of having an abortion, some states require:
- A 72-hour waiting period after a mandatory abortion consultation
- A medically unnecessary pre-abortion ultrasound
- All methods, even the abortion pill mifepristone, should be offered in clinics that meet hospital standards
- An abortion that must be performed by a licensed physician
- Prohibit abortion coverage in private insurance plans
A 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that such barriers can reduce the quality of care for women who undergo the procedure by preventing them from receiving the type of abortion that meets the need. best to their needs in a timely, fair, scientific-based manner.
Where is abortion restricted in the United States? A state-by-state guide to applicable laws
With a patchwork of regulations and ongoing efforts to enact new restrictions, access to abortion in the United States largely depends on where a person lives.
To see what laws are in place in each state, click on the interactive map below for information on pregnancy limitations, procedural restrictions and more:
Overview of State Laws
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a total of 22 states have already passed laws banning abortion completely or very early in a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Laws fall into three basic categories:
- Unenforced abortion bans that were enacted before the Roe v. Wade in 1973 and which are still in effect in some states
- Bans that passed but stalled in court under Roe
- The so-called trigger bans which are designed to take effect if and when Roe is canceled
At least eight states have passed anti-abortion restrictions this year: Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some of these laws make no exception for rape or incest.
At least two states, Michigan and Wisconsin, only have state laws banning abortion that were passed before Roe and could go into effect if the ruling is overturned, according to the Associated Press. Michigan’s governor, a Democrat, is suing to overturn that state’s ban.
Seven other states – Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia – have pre- and post-Roe bans on the books, and whichever one they will choose to d to observe remains uncertain.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have placed protections for abortion access in state law, though they take slightly different forms, according to Guttmacher. Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and DC protect the right to abortion throughout pregnancy. Twelve other states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Washington – have passed laws to protect the right to abortion before viability.
At least eight states have decided to strengthen existing protections or expand access to abortion this year: California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.