What legal restrictions on abortion have states enacted?
Several measures have been enacted in various states to restrict abortion:
Parental Notification: Parental notification statutes require written proof that one or both parents have been notified of their daughter’s desire to have an abortion. Parental notification is required in 16 states.
Parental Consent: Parental consent statutes require written proof that, not only have one or both parents been notified, but also that one or both parents consent to their daughter’s decision. Twenty-seven states have parental consent laws.
Waiting Periods: Waiting periods ranging from one to 24 hours before an abortion can be performed have been enacted in 26 states.
Informed Consent: While it is ethically and legally required for a doctor to explain a medical procedure before performing it on a patient, this is not universally required for abortion. Seventeen states have laws—sometimes referred to as “Right to Know” laws—requiring a woman to be provided with some kind of information before an abortion is performed. This information ranges from offering a woman an ultrasound and thoroughly explaining the procedure to merely making pamphlets that explain the procedure available.
Partial Birth Abortion Bans: In addition to a federal law banning partial birth abortion, 19 states have laws prohibiting the practice that would remain in force if the federal law were ever repealed.
Late Term Abortion Bans: Thirty-eight states restrict late term abortion, some on the basis of fetal viability, others because the fetus can feel pain. These laws prohibit abortion after a certain point in pregnancy, usually
24 weeks or as early as 20 weeks, and all include exceptions for either the life or health of the mother.
The numbers of states listed above refer to states where abortion restrictions are in force. Many other state restrictions on abortion have been enjoined by the courts either permanently or while undergoing legal challenge, and are not in force.
It is also important to note that while those state restrictions that are in force provide some degree of protection to the unborn and their mothers, abortion remains relatively easy to obtain throughout the United States.
For detailed information on state restrictions, see the sources cited below, which are updated monthly.
Guttmacher Institute. “State Policies in Brief: An Overview of Abortion Laws.” https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws.
Guttmacher Institute. “State Policies in Brief: Policies on Later-Term Abortions.” http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_PLTA.pdf.