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America’s Abortion Landscape: Assessing the Policy in All 50 States

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER - Matthew McDonald - JAN 20, 2023


What is the status of legislation and court cases?

Below is an update on the status of abortion in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as of mid-January 2023. (photo: Yavdat / Shutterstock)

Abortion policy in the United States has largely been a state matter since the U.S.

Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs decision on June 24, 2022.


In consequence of this change, the pro-life movement is shifting gears to emphasize state-level advocacy — a shift that’s reflected in the “Next Steps” theme for the 2023 March for Life.


Below is an update on the status of abortion in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as of mid-January 2023.


Note that abortion bans at 15 weeks or later into pregnancy allow most abortions to take place. The vast majority of abortions in the United States are performed during the first trimester. In 2020, about 93% of abortions were performed during the first 13 weeks, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Alaska

Abortion is legal in all nine months in Alaska.

The Alaska Legislature made abortion legal (over the governor’s veto) in 1970, before the U.S. Supreme Court issued Roe v. Wade making abortion legal nationwide.

In 1997, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that a provision in the state Constitution that protects a right to privacy includes a “fundamental right to an abortion.”

On Jan. 9, 2023, a Republican state senator filed a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would flip that ruling, allowing the state Legislature to outlaw abortion.


It faces a steep climb. To pass, an amendment to the state Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber of the state Legislature, followed by support from a simple majority of voters at the next general election.

The governor of the state, a Republican, opposes abortion. Republicans (who tend to be pro-life) have majorities in each chamber of the state Legislature, but not super-majorities. Polls suggest a majority of Alaskans oppose making abortion illegal.

Alabama

Abortion is illegal in Alabama unless it would “prevent a serious health risk” to the mother.

The governor signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act in May 2019.


It went into effect June 24, 2022, the day the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, after a federal judge lifted an injunction against the state statute.

Arizona

Abortion is legal up to 15 weeks into pregnancy in Arizona.

On March 30, 2022, the then-governor signed into law a bill making abortion illegal after 15 weeks, without rescinding an 1864 statute that banned abortion.

On December 30, 2022, a three-judge panel of the second-tier Arizona Court of Appeals issued an opinion upholding the 15-week ban from March 2022 but setting aside the near-total ban from 1864.


Abortion opponents consider the case for the 1864 near-total abortion ban winnable if it goes to the state Supreme Court. But the newly elected state attorney general (who won by 511 votes) is a Democrat who supports legal abortion and does not intend to appeal the court’s ruling. The new governor is also a pro-abortion Democrat, so further abortion restrictions in the state are unlikely for the time being.

Arkansas

Abortion is illegal in Arkansas except “to preserve the life” of the mother.

In February 2019, the governor signed into law the Arkansas Human Life Protection Act, a so-called “trigger law” that banned abortion whenever the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which happened June 24, 2022, in the Dobbs decision.

The statute was not subject to a state court challenge because an amendment to the state Constitution approved in 1988 declares it’s the state’s policy “to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution.”


California

Abortion in California is legal until an unborn child “has a reasonable likelihood” of surviving outside the womb “without the application of extraordinary medical measures.”

The California Reproductive Privacy Act of 2002 makes abortion legal “prior to viability of the fetus,” which it doesn’t define but which is often thought to correspond to about 24 weeks into pregnancy.

An October 2019 state statute requires public universities to provide abortion-inducing chemicals, with infrastructure to be at public expense and the chemicals to be paid for by “public programs or health insurance providers.”

Managed-care health-insurance plans in the state that aren’t self-funded or grandfathered must pay for abortions, under state law. The state’s Medi-Cal program pays for abortions for poor women.


Voters in California in November 2022 approved an amendment to the state Constitution declaring a “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion,” by 67% to 33%. The amendment doesn’t explicitly change abortion law in the state, but some opponents fear its expansive language (“The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions …”) may at some point enable a court to allow third-trimester abortions in the state.

Colorado

Abortion is legal in Colorado through all nine months.

In 1967, Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in some situations.

In April 2022, the governor signed into law the Colorado Reproductive Health Equity Act, which declares “a fundamental right … to have an abortion.”

It is a go-to state for late-term abortions.

In November 2020 voters rejected a referendum that would have made abortions illegal after 22 weeks, by 59% to 41%.


Connecticut

Abortion is legal in Connecticut through viability.

A 1990 state statute that codified Roe v. Wade doesn’t define “viability,” which is often interpreted as about 24 weeks into pregnancy.

The statute allows post-24-weeks abortions “when necessary to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman.”

Delaware

Abortion is legal in Delaware until viability.

In June 2017, the governor signed a bill into law making it clear that abortion is legal until an unborn baby can live outside the womb “without the application of extraordinary medical measures.” That’s usually interpreted as 24 weeks.

In April 2022, the governor signed a bill into law allowing physician’s assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs.


Florida

Abortion is legal in Florida through 15 weeks.

In April 2022, the governor signed a bill into law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks unless needed “to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of a pregnant woman other than a psychological condition” or unless there is “a fatal fetal abnormality” likely to result in death soon after birth. It took effect July 1, 2022.

In August 2022, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida asked the Florida Supreme Court to overturn the statute as violating the right of privacy described in a 1980 amendment to the state Constitution. The state attorney general is defending the statute.

The appeal is pending. As of Jan. 18, 2023, the statute was still in effect.

Georgia

Abortion is illegal in Georgia after about six weeks into pregnancy.

In May 2019, the governor signed into law a bill that banned abortion after “a detectable human heartbeat,” which the bill notes can happen “as early as six weeks’ gestation.”

Pro-abortion groups have challenged the statute in court.

On Nov. 23, 2022, the Georgia Supreme Court lifted a lower-court stay of the six-week abortion-ban statute, meaning it is now in effect.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 28, 2023.

Hawaii

Abortion is legal in Hawaii until viability, which is generally defined as about 24 weeks.

A state statute allows advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe abortion-inducing pills and to perform vacuum-aspiration abortions.

Hawaii legalized abortion in 1970, after the Catholic governor at the time allowed a pro-abortion bill to become law without his signature, while complaining of “pleadings, warnings, even threats from many sources, including clergymen and lay members of my own Roman Catholic Church …”

His non-veto message called abortion “a gravely sinful act” and “the taking of human life.”

But a governor of a state, said Gov. John Burns, “must never let his private political and religious convictions unduly influence his judgment as Governor of ALL the people,” according to a newspaper account of the time.

Idaho

Abortion is illegal in Idaho except in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of the mother.

A state statute banning abortion with those exceptions took effect on Aug. 25, 2022.

The Idaho Supreme Court upheld the statute as constitutional on Jan. 5, 2023, rejecting an appeal from abortion advocates.

Illinois

Abortion is legal in Illinois until viability, and even after viability if the abortion is deemed “necessary to protect the life or health” of the mother.

The Illinois Reproductive Health Act, which took effect in June 2019, does not define viability, but it usually corresponds to about 24 weeks.

As of June 1, 2022, the state no longer has a parental-consent requirement for abortion, meaning minor girls of any age can get an abortion without obtaining the permission of their parents.

Indiana

Abortion is currently legal in Indiana through 21 weeks 6 days into pregnancy, despite a statute that seeks to ban it earlier.

In August 2022, the governor signed into law a bill that bans abortion after 10 weeks into pregnancy, except in cases of rape, of incest, where there “is [a diagnosis] with a lethal fetal anomaly,” and “to prevent any serious health risk to the pregnant woman or to save the pregnant woman’s life.”

But in September 2022, a lower-court judge blocked implementation of the new statute.

The Indiana Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in a legal challenge to the state’s abortion restriction on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Iowa

Abortion is currently legal in Iowa through 20 weeks, despite efforts of state legislators to further restrict it.

In May 2018, the governor signed into law a bill that bans abortion “if a fetal heartbeat is detectible,” which happens about six weeks into pregnancy. That statute has never taken effect, however.

In June 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court found that abortion is a fundamental right under the state Constitution. But since then, the court has gotten a new conservative majority. In June 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court found that abortion is “not the source to a fundamental right to an abortion,” upholding a 24-hour waiting period.

In October 2022, the state’s pro-life governor asked a lower-court judge to overturn a permanent injunction against the six-week abortion ban and thereby let it take effect. That case is expected to eventually make it to the state Supreme Court.

Kansas

Abortion is legal in Kansas up to 20 weeks.

The state Legislature has passed various restrictions on abortion, but it’s not clear how many will withstand court scrutiny.

In April 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a fundamental right under the state Constitution.

In August 2022, a referendum seeking to flip the court decision by adding an amendment to the state Constitution explicitly stating that abortion is not a right in Kansas failed, by 59% to 41%.

Kentucky

Abortion is illegal in Kentucky.

A so-called “trigger” law banning abortion went into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its Dobbs decision in June 2022.

In March 2019, the governor signed the trigger law, known as the Human Life Protection Act, into law. It bans abortion except “to prevent the death or substantial risk of death” to a mother or “to prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman.”

In November 2022, voters in Kentucky rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to protect anti-abortion laws in the state from future court decisions by declaring that nothing in the state Constitution protects a right to abortion. The proposed amendment failed by 52% to 48%.

Louisiana

Abortion is illegal in Louisiana.

A state statute amended in October 2022 makes abortion illegal in all cases except “to prevent the death or substantial risk of death due to a physical condition, or to prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman.”

The statute is not subject to a state court challenge because Louisiana voters in November 2020 approved an amendment to the state Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion …” The vote was 62% to 38%.

Maine

Abortion is legal in Maine until viability, which state officials describe as “usually about 24-28 weeks.”

After viability, according to 1993 state statute, “an abortion may be performed only when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Girls age 17 and younger in Maine need the permission of a parent or a judge to get an abortion.

Maryland

Abortion is legal in Maryland until viability.

State law doesn’t define how many weeks into pregnancy that is, but 24 weeks is typical.

As of July 1, 2022, abortions in Maryland can be performed by nurse practitioners, midwives and physician’s assistants.

Massachusetts

Abortion is legal in Massachusetts until 24 weeks.

It’s also legal after 24 weeks to preserve the life of the mother, the physical or mental health of the mother, due to the diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly, or due to “a grave fetal diagnosis that indicates that the fetus is incompatible with sustained life outside of the uterus without extraordinary medical interventions.”

In December 2020, the state Legislature enacted (over the governor’s veto) a statute that removed a previous provision in state law that required doctors to try to save the life of a baby born alive after an attempted abortion.

The fiscal year state budget that began July 1, 2022, includes $17.5 million to encourage and promote abortion and contraception.

Michigan

Abortion is legal in Michigan through viability.

In November 2022, voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution “to establish a right to individual reproductive freedom,” which includes a right to abortion.

The amendment allows the state “to regulate abortion after fetal viability, but not prohibit if medically needed to protect a patient’s life or mental health.”

Voters approved the constitutional amendment by 57% to 43%.

Minnesota

Abortion is legal in Minnesota until viability.

In December 1995, the state Supreme Court ruled that a law prohibiting state funding of abortion in Minnesota violated “a woman’s fundamental right of privacy under the Minnesota Constitution” and that the right to privacy includes the right to have an abortion.

A state statute requires parental consent for minors seeking an abortion, but a district court judge has ruled against that statute. As of mid-January 2023, a pro-life group is seeking to enter the case to try to advocate for the parental-consent law, which the group says the pro-abortion state attorney general has not defended adequately, an accusation the attorney general denies.

Mississippi

Abortion is illegal in Mississippi “except in the case where necessary for the preservation of the mother's life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape," thanks to a trigger law that took effect in July 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Missouri

Abortion is illegal in Missouri “except in cases of medical emergency,” thanks to a trigger law that took effect June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Montana

Abortion is legal in Montana until viability.

It’s also legal after viability if “it is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”

A statute enacted in 2021 sought to make abortion illegal at about 20 weeks, but in August 2022 the state Supreme Court affirmed a lower-court ruling blocking the law from taking effect.

A bill filed Jan. 11, 2023, in the state Legislature seeks to clarify that there is no right to abortion under the state Constitution.


Nebraska Abortion is legal in Nebraska until 20 weeks into pregnancy. A state statute allows abortions after 20 weeks for a pregnant woman “to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” The Republican-controlled single-chamber Legislature refused to pass a ban on abortions after 12 weeks in 2022. Pro-life legislators hope to pass a ban on abortions after six weeks (a so-called “heartbeat” bill) in 2023. Nevada Abortion is legal in Nevada through 24 weeks. Voters approved the current statute in 1990. It allows abortions after 24 weeks only if a doctor deems it “necessary to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman.” The referendum passed 63% to 37%. Only a future statewide referendum could repeal or amend the statute, under state law. New Hampshire Abortion is legal in New Hampshire until 24 weeks. The state had no gestation limit until Jan. 1, 2022, after a new statute was signed into law by the governor in June 2021. The statute allows abortions after 24 weeks in cases of “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life” or “to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered” or in the case of a mother whose pregnancy “will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” New Jersey Abortion is legal in New Jersey through all nine months. The governor signed into law a bill that protects what it calls “reproductive choice” and “reproductive autonomy,” with no restrictions on abortion. New Mexico Abortion is legal in New Mexico through all nine months. In February 2021, the governor signed into law a bill that repealed a 1969 pre-Roe statute banning abortion that was unenforceable after 1973. New York Abortion is legal in New York through 24 weeks. In January 2019, the governor signed into law the state’s Reproductive Health Act, which allows abortions after 24 weeks if “there is an absence of fetal viability, or at any time when necessary to protect a patient’s life or health.” North Carolina Abortion is legal in North Carolina through 20 weeks. A state statute bans abortions after 20 weeks unless “there is a medical emergency.” North Dakota Abortion remains legal in North Dakota through 21 weeks, despite a statute banning abortion. A state judge has blocked implementation of the anti-abortion law. The North Dakota Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on Nov. 29, 2022. Ohio Abortion is legal in Ohio through six weeks. In April 2019, the governor signed into law a bill that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, generally around six weeks. Oklahoma Abortion is illegal in Oklahoma except to preserve the life of the mother. In May 2022, the governor signed into law a bill that bans abortion, allowing civil lawsuits to be brought against anyone who performs an abortion in the state. Oregon Abortion is legal in Oregon through all nine months. In 2022, the state Legislature appropriated $15 million to pay for more abortions. The state has been paying for abortions for illegal immigrants since 2018. Pennsylvania Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania through 23 weeks. For minors, the state requires the consent of a parent or a judge. Rhode Island Abortion is legal in Rhode Island through viability. In June 2019, the governor signed into law the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act. It allows abortions after viability (generally considered around 24 weeks) “when necessary to preserve the life or health” of the mother. South Carolina Abortion is currently legal through 22 weeks in South Carolina. A ban on abortions after six weeks (known as a fetal heartbeat bill) was struck down by the state Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2023, which ruled that it violates the right to privacy guaranteed by the South Carolina Constitution. South Dakota Abortion is illegal in South Dakota. A so-called trigger ban went into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. The statute defines abortion as a felony, “unless there is appropriate and reasonable medical judgment that performance of an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant female.” Tennessee Abortion is illegal in Tennessee. A so-called trigger ban took effect Aug. 25, 2022. In May 2019 the governor signed into law the state’s Human Life Protection Act. It allows abortions only “to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” Texas Abortion is illegal in Texas. The state’s Human Life Protection Act of 2021 took effect Aug. 25, 2022. It allows abortions only in the case where it is deemed necessary to alleviate “a life-threatening physical condition” for the mother or “a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function” of the mother. The statute provides a civil penalty of $100,000 for each violation. Utah Abortions are currently legal in Utah through 18 weeks, despite a state statute banning abortion. A state statute enacted in March 2020 prohibits abortion except in cases of rape or incest, to save the life of the mother, avert a threat to a major bodily function of the mother, or due to a diagnosis of a fatal fetal anomaly. It was designed to take effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which happened in June 2022. The state Supreme Court in October 2022 declined to lift an injunction against the abortion ban issued by a lower-court judge in July 2022 to remain in place, blocking it. Vermont Abortion is legal in Vermont through all nine months. In November 2022, voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution adding “personal reproductive autonomy” as a right that “shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” Voters approved the amendment 77% to 22%. At the time, Vermont had no restrictions on abortion, which is the current situation in the state. Virginia Abortion is legal in Virginia through the second trimester of pregnancy, or roughly 26 weeks. A state statute allows abortion in the third trimester if “the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.” In 2023, the governor is pushing for a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. Washington Abortion is legal in Washington state until viability. State law allows abortions to be performed by a physician’s assistant or an advanced registered nurse practitioner. West Virginia Abortion is illegal in West Virginia. In September 2022, the governor signed into law a bill that outlaws abortion “except in a medical emergency or a nonmedically viable fetus.” The statute explicitly rules out rape and incest as legal justifications for abortion. Another state statute defines “medical emergency” for a pregnant woman as a case where an abortion is needed “to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions.” Wisconsin Abortion is illegal in Wisconsin. A state statute first enacted in 1849 makes abortion illegal except “to save the life of the mother.” The statute resumed its force after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Wyoming Abortion is legal in Wyoming until viability, despite a state statute seeking to ban it. In March 2022, the governor signed into law a bill that bans abortion except in the cases of sexual assault, incest, or “when necessary to preserve the woman from a serious risk of death or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including any psychological or emotional conditions.” The state Supreme Court has allowed to stay in place a lower-court injunction keeping the anti-abortion statute from taking effect. It’s not clear when the court will rule on the statute. District of Columbia Abortion is legal in the District of Columbia through all nine months. A District act approved by the DC Council in 2020 states: “The District shall recognize the right of every individual who becomes pregnant to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth, or to have an abortion.”


 
Matthew McDonald Matthew McDonald is a staff reporter for The National Catholic Register and the editor of New Boston Post. He lives in Massachusetts.

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