Despite the best efforts of anti-choice activists, the Supreme Court has not overturned Roe v. Wade, meaning that the states where abortion is legal is, quite technically, all of them. But because the Court has allowed certain restrictions on where and how abortions can be performed, who can perform them, (and because some states like Texas have trie to pass heartbeat bills), abortion laws and access by state can vary wildly, with restrictions on how people can access abortions changing across state lines.
All of that can make it harder for the mothers who often need abortions to obtain them. That’s why we compiled this map of states where abortion is legal — in order to show just how different abortion laws are by state.
As part of its work, the international reproductive health organization the Guttmacher Institute tracks the status of legislation and judicial decisions regarding abortion on the state level. Using its data, we assembled maps that describe the current state of abortion in the U.S. and answer important questions about the procedure.
Abortion is “legal” everywhere — but legality, and access, varies widely
Abortion is legal in the United States, but legality does not equal access, and even though abortion is legal, restrictions vary by state.
Of those restrictions, for instance, all but seven states limit how far into a pregnancy a person is allowed to terminate their pregnancy. (The state of Texas recently passed a bill that bans abortion at six weeks, which is basically a total ban on abortion. However, that law won’t take effect until September 1, meaning that for the time being, abortion in the state is legal until 20 weeks unless the woman is at risk of death.)
Twenty-two states ban abortion between 13 and 24 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period before pregnancy.
One state, Virginia, has a ban on third-trimester abortions, those that take place at 25 or more weeks.
The other twenty states impose a ban not after a certain period of time has elapsed but rather at “viability,” defined as the point at which a fetus can survive outside the uterus under normal conditions. Viability can happen anywhere from 24 to 28 weeks after the start of a woman’s last menstrual period. It’s something that must be determined on an individual basis by a physician.
All of these bans contain exceptions for the life of the pregnant person, and many of the bans—but not all of them—include similar exceptions for their general or physical health.
What other abortion restrictions are there?
In the absence of federal law on abortion, every state has its own rules including, and beyond, the aforementioned restrictions on when women can seek out an abortion.
That’s not to mention the numerative anti-choice legislators have gotten creative in creating rules that restrict the access women have to this particular kind of healthcare without technically running afoul of Supreme Court precedence. Heartbeat bans, hospital requirements, waiting periods, and more are all crafty ways that lawmakers can make abortion harder to access. These lawmakers also sometimes pass laws that violate Roe in order to bait the Court to take up a new case and establish a newer, more anti-choice precedence.
A federal ban on “Partial-birth” abortion was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007’s Gonzales v. Carhart, with an exception for when the life of the mother is in danger but, crucially, not when her health is otherwise in danger. The law itself doesn’t include a “precise medical definition” of what is banned, but the Court found that it made the dilation and extraction method illegal.
Twenty-one states have their own “partial-birth” laws, 13 of which resemble the federal statute and seven of which are presumably unenforceable thanks to another Supreme Court decision.
Forcing a delay in the procedure is also a popular tactic among anti-choice legislators; half of states require a waiting period between 24 and 72 hours. Twelve dictate that counseling they require for a person to get an abortion take place before the waiting period begins, necessitating two separate trips to the provider. That can make abortion harder for people to access.
Thirty-three states require women to hear counseling before an abortion is performed, which in addition to taking time forces doctors to deliver information to women they would not likely communicate otherwise. According to Guttmacher,
- 27 states require women to be told about the risks of abortion, many of which are medically inaccurate
- 25 require women to be given information about the specific procedure they are going to experience
- 31 require the woman be told the gestational age of the fetus
- 27 require the woman be told about fetal development throughout pregnancy
- 13 require the woman to hear about the ability of a fetus to feel pain
- 5 require the woman to be told personhood begins at conception
Twenty-eight states have created written materials for women seeking abortions, with 11 requiring they be given and 17 mandating that they merely be offered.
Twenty-six states have a provision on pre-abortion ultrasounds, ranging from the four that force women to undergo, view, and hear a description of the ultrasound, to the six that require women to be given the opportunity to see the ultrasound image.
Thirty-two states require that a licensed physician provide medication abortions, barring midlevel providers like physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to do so, which the World Health Organization and others say is perfectly safe.
What happens if Roe v. Wade is struck down?
It’s no secret that the makeup of the Supreme Court has swung heavily to the right, as it now contains three justices nominated by former President Trump. Perhaps more than at any point since 1973, the Court is likely to rule against precedence and deny American women the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade. And state legislatures across the country have already prepared for such an eventuality.
According to Guttmacher, 21 states have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion in the absence of Roe while 14 and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly protect the right to abortion.