Civil Rights

State Laws Restricting Abortion Rights

Women have had the right to have abortions since 1973. That was the year the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that this right was protected by the US Constitution without interference from the states. However, states have implemented many laws since then restricting aspects of abortion. Recently, laws have been passed that push the boundaries on how far states can limit a woman's right to have an abortion.

Waiting Period Requirements

Almost half the states require a woman who wants an abortion to wait a specific time period. The most common waiting period is 24 hours. A few states require the woman to visit the clinic twice before she can have an abortion. The first for the initial consultation, and the second for the actual procedure.

Counseling Requirements

Less than half the states require counseling before an abortion can be performed. The information usually deals with the health risks to the woman. A few states require the woman to be told of the ability of the fetus to feel pain.

Ultrasound Requirements

Some states are starting to pass laws that require a woman to have an ultrasound before she can have an abortion. Oklahoma passed a law that requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion procedure. The screen that shows the image of the fetus must face the woman. The woman is required to hear information and details of the development of her child. Many lawsuits have been filed challenging this law on the ground that it's unconstitutional.

Consent from Parents

More than half the states require a parent to be involved if a minor is seeking an abortion. Some states require consent from a parent, and some just require the parent to be notified. Most of these states only require the involvement of one parent. Very few require the notification and consent of both parents.

Doctor Requirements

Most states require licensed doctors to perform abortions. Less than half the states require a second doctor to be involved after a specific point in the pregnancy. The most common point is viability, which means the baby can survive outside the mother's womb. Some states also require the abortion procedure to be performed in a hospital at a certain point in the pregnancy.

Refusal to Perform Abortions

Most states allow doctors to refuse to participate in an abortion. These states generally allow the entire hospital to refuse to perform any abortions. Some states limit this refusal right to private or religious health institutions.

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

One method of abortion is called partial-birth abortion. The federal government enacted a law banning the use of this method in most cases. Some states also have laws that prohibit partial-birth abortion. A few of these laws only apply to abortions after viability.

Limits Based on Gestational Age

Most states prohibit abortion after the fetus reaches a certain gestational age. Viability is the most common point in a pregnancy in which a woman is prevented from having an abortion. However, most states allow an exception if the life or health of the woman is endangered.

Some states are shortening the time a woman can have an abortion. Nebraska passed a law banning abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The state based the law on the theory of pain. At the 20-week point of pregnancy, the fetus allegedly has the capacity to feel pain. The law will likely be challenged as unconstitutional. It could become the most important abortion case to end up reaching the US Supreme Court in years.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How do I challenge an abortion law that I believe is unconstitutional?
  • Is it okay to get consent from a grandparent for an abortion if I am a minor?
  • Are there any restrictions against driving to another state to have an abortion?

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