A guide to state abortion legislation & some observations

The newest state legislative session has brought about a tidal wave of abortion legislation — mostly attempts to restriction abortion either directly or indirectly. Now while organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice and the Guttmacher Institute have excellent resources on state laws and legislation regarding abortions, I decided to venture out independently and gather information on abortion by state so it would all be on one, scrollable page.

So here is an objective, somewhat comprehensive (and constantly changing, I apologize if it isn’t up to date — let me know if you see something that’s been killed by the legislature or signed into law or something major that I’ve missed) collection of abortion legislation in the states. After the legislation descriptions, I have a few subjective observations.

(Note: Many of these states have bills pending regarding state health exchanges and abortion funding or parental consent for minors to get abortions; I typically didn’t list these pieces of legislation unless they were the only pieces of abortion-related legislation pending in the legislature.)


(objective descriptions)

Federal: The Pence amendment to H.R. 1 would ban Title X funding to Planned Parenthood, eliminating all federal funding for the family-planning nonprofit. H.R. 1 originally did pass the House but not the Senate. A revised version of H.R. 1 has been reintroduced and still contains the Pence amendment.

Alabama: Alabama already mandates that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and offer a woman the opportunity to view the image before performing an abortion. Currently in the legislature is HB 18, which would ban late-term abortions (abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy).

Alaska: SB 14 would allow conscientious objection from doctors who don’t want to perform abortions. 

Arizona: Arizona already requires an ultrasound on women seeking an abortion after their first trimester and that providers offer women the opportunity to view the image. Two bills passed the House: HB 2416 would require abortion pill providers in rural communities to be set up like surgical facilities in order to distribute the pill, and would require an hour wait time between when an ultrasound is performed and when the abortion would be done; HB 2384 would prohibit public funding for organizations that do abortion referrals or provide abortion health-care coverage.

Arkansas: HB 1887 (the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act) would reinforce current law that prevents abortions after 20 weeks and would require abortion providers to tell women seeking abortions that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain as well as offer women other information regarding the procedure.

California: There is a budget bill that would restrict government funding for low-income health care to be used for abortions.

Colorado: HB 1256 would have make it illegal to kill an unborn baby in Colorado through reckless actions, but it is being withdrawn.

Connecticut: HB 5099 would require an ultrasound be performed before an abortion.

Delaware: There doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation, though there is talk of stronger regulation of abortion clinics because of Kermit Gosnell, a  Philadelphia abortion doctor who performed illegal, late-term abortions in a “house of horrors” abortion clinic (Gosnell has been charged with murdering seven infants using scissors). Legislators are also talking about instituting a parental consent law for abortion.

District of Columbia: Federal H.R. 1 would reinstate a ban on using federal and local tax dollars for abortions.

Florida: Florida already requires an ultrasound on each woman obtaining an abortion after her first trimester and that providers offer her the opportunity to view the image. Florida has introduced 18 bills regarding abortion so far in this legislative session.

Proposed bills include: (1) HJR 1179, a constitutional amendment that would prohibit using state money for funding abortions, even in cases of rape or incest; (2) HB 321, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks; (3) HB 415, the “Florida for Life Act,” which would ban abortions completely except to save the mother’s life and would ban abortion clinics; and (4) HB 1127, which would require ultrasounds on all women seeking abortions and require them to review the ultrasound (must sign form certifying they denied viewing ultrasound of their own free will if they don’t want to view it) — exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and medical emergency.

Georgia: HB 1 would make abortion illegal and would criminalize any “human involvement” in miscarriage; prenatal murder would be a felony and could carry a life sentence or death penalty.

Hawaii: SB 860 would prohibit partial-birth abortions, except in emergencies to save the life of the mother.

Idaho: SB 1165 would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Illinois: HB 3156 would regulate abortion clinics like surgical centers.

Indiana: HB 1210 would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, and require doctors to tell women that abortions might lead to breast cancer, inform women seeking an abortion that the fetus might feel pain, and require women to view an ultrasound.

Iowa: An Iowa House panel has approved HF 5, a bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; also in the General Assembly is a bill (HF 7) that would allow reasonable or deadly force to be used by a person or third party to protect themselves or someone else from harm; combined with HF 153, which would define “life” as starting from conception, some contend HF 7 is a “justifiable homicide” bill that could be interpreted to allow for the murder of abortion providers.

Kansas: There doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation.

Kentucky: A bill to require women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds died in the House.

Louisiana: Louisiana already requires that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and offer a woman the opportunity to view the image before performing an abortion; there doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation.

Maine: LD 116 would require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions; LD 924 would require doctors to, 24 hours in advance, provide medical information and a brochure on alternatives to abortion.

Maryland: There doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation, but anti-abortion activists want stricter regulations on abortion clinics.

Massachusetts: H 2216 would prosecute harming a fetus the same as harming the mother, but it excludes abortion providers and medical intervention; H 0482 would require doctors to give women — before consenting to an abortion — information regarding abortion alternatives, probable age of the fetus, opportunity to listen to heartbeat, the “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics” of the fetus, and risks associated with abortion; H 1333 would prohibit partial-birth abortions except to save the mother.

Michigan: SB 0150/HB 4433 would require abortion providers to use the most advanced ultrasound technology; SB 0160/HB 4109 would prohibit partial-birth abortion.

Minnesota: HF 1042 would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy (currently restricted past 23 weeks).

Mississippi: Mississippi already requires that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and offer a woman the opportunity to view the image before performing an abortion. There does not seem to be any other current abortion-related legislation.

Missouri: HB 213 would ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, and would require two physicians to confirm that the proper exemption requirements are met to perform an abortion after 20 weeks (the only exemption is to save the life of the mother).

Montana: The House voted to cut nearly all funding for family-planning clinics; HB 280 would require an ultrasound before abortion but is listed on the legislative website as “probably dead”; HB 574 would prohibit state funding for abortion.

Nebraska: LB 232 would permit any third party to “defend” a fetus, leading many to call it a “justifiable homicide” bill that could be used to allow the murder of abortion providers; LB 461 would prevent hospitals from discriminating against workers with religious objections to abortions, except in the case of the mother’s life being in danger when the worker would be expected to prioritize the mother’s life.

Nevada: There seems to be no current abortion-related legislation.

New Hampshire: HB 329 would require minors to get parental consent for abortion; the parental notification required for a minor to get an abortion was repealed four years ago.

New Jersey: A 163/S 353 would require physicians to offer ultrasounds to women seeking an abortion at least 48 hours before the abortion is done, except in the case of a medical emergency.

New Mexico: There seems to be no current abortion-related legislation this session. (There is a fetal homicide bill, but it excludes abortion providers.)

New York: A 2244 would require a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion; require doctors to provide women with information regarding abortion alternatives, abortion risks, and details about the fetus’s current development; and mandate that all abortion providers have proper ultrasound equipment; S 4028 would require that minors need parental consent to get an abortion.

North Carolina: There seems to be no current abortion-related legislation this session. (There is a fetal homicide bill, but it excludes abortion providers.)

North Dakota: HB 1450 would change the definition of human being to life beginning at conception.

Ohio: HB 125 (also called the “heartbeat bill“) would ban abortions if heartbeat could be detected and requires medical providers to, at least 24 hours before the abortion, give  information to the woman about the baby’s survival chances if a heartbeat is detected — if found to have performed an abortion when the fetus’s heartbeat was detected, doctors would face a fifth-degree felony.

Oklahoma: Both HB 1888 (Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act) and HB 1402 (Women’s Health Defense Act) would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; both SB 546 and HB 1571 define life as starting at conception; and SJR 43 would have the public vote on whether life starts at conception.

Oregon: HB 3512 would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; SB 901 would require that abortion clinics be regulated like surgical centers.

Pennsylvania: SB 732/HB 574 would regulate abortion clinics like surgical centers.

Rhode Island: H 5505 would require that, at least 24 hours prior to an abortion, women must be informed of information regarding risks involved with abortion and carrying child to term, and pictures of what the fetus would look like (except in a medical emergency); H 5029 would define life as starting at conception; H 5691 would require that physicians be able to provide ultrasounds and show them to women, though women are not required to view them.

South Carolina: HB 3403/SB 164 (also called the “Born Alive” bill) would, according to proponents, require that fetuses that survive an abortion be saved and not treated as medical waste; HB 3408 (Freedom of Conscience Act) prohibits employers to discriminate against workers who don’t want to do certain tasks that conflict with their religious, moral, or ethical principles — the bill also allows health care facilities to refuse to admit patients seeking care they ethically object to providing.

South Dakota: The governor signed a law requiring a 72-hour waiting period between when a woman first comes to the clinic (only one abortion clinic in the state) for an abortion and when she can have the abortion, and it requires that the woman must get counseling from a pregnancy crisis center.

Tennessee: HB 956/SB 47 requires abortion clinics that perform five or more abortions per year be regulated as surgical facilities.

Texas: HB 15 would require that, at least between one and three days before an abortion, a doctor has to give a woman a sonogram, describe the fetus in the sonogram in “layperson” terms, provide information on abortion alternatives (it seems like the sonogram is mandatory but the woman can decline the information), and have the woman listen to the heartbeat (except in medical emergency); HB 325 requires an ultrasound but says the woman can “look away,” and also requires information similar to that mandated in HB 15 be provided at least an hour before an abortion; HB 2659 would outlaw abortion except in the case of rape or incest (these exceptions must be proven) or for the health of the mother.

Utah: HB 354 was signed by the governor and prevents private insurance companies from covering abortions; HB 171 was signed by the governor and requires first-trimester abortion clinics to be licensed by the state; HB 353 was signed by the governor and allows physicians to refuse to perform abortion on moral or religious grounds (even in cases of rape or incest) without repercussions from employers, and it allows health care facilities to refuse to admit a patient for an abortion on moral or religious grounds.

Vermont: It seems there is no current abortion-related legislation.

Virginia: HB 1428 would regulate abortion clinics as medical care facilities; Gov. Bob McDonnell recently added an amendment to HB 2434, which addresses the state creating its own health exchange in regard to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that would prohibit any insurance on the exchange from covering the cost of an abortion.

Washington: HB 1366 requires pregnancy crisis centers to make certain disclosures — that they do not provide abortions or medical care to pregnant women — to people seeking their services and prohibits them from disclosing a patient’s medical information without permission.

West Virginia: HB 3020 would prohibit state-funded health plans from offering abortion coverage.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposes eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning centers.

Wyoming: HB 118 would require that doctors, at least 24 hours before performing an abortion, inform the woman that she can view an ultrasound, listen for the fetus’s heartbeat, and the possibility of the fetus feeling pain if it’s past the 20th week of pregnancy, including a description of the procedure and when the fetus would feel pain and that anesthesia is available but offers little pain prevention to the fetus. HB 251 only relates to doctors offering women an ultrasound and chance to hear the fetal heartbeat.


Some observations
(not so objective)

How does this legislation affect abortion access?

Much of the legislation is self-explanatory in terms of how it affects abortion access. Bans on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy obviously mean that some women won’t be allowed to get abortions. But much of this legislation is also tricky. Forcing a woman to get an ultrasound or listen to a heartbeat is an attempt to influence a woman’s decision about getting an abortion. Allowing hospitals to refuse patients limits where they can go for an abortion, and can be potentially dangerous if a woman needs an emergency abortion but the only hospital within miles refuses to give abortions for religious or ethical reasons.

Requiring abortion clinics to be regulated differently can indirectly shut them down, because they’d be required to meet building specifications that would require costly renovations — leaving many women without access to abortion. In Arizona, women in rural communities would be forced to travel to cities to get the abortion pill, which might not be a feasible option when one considers travel costs and possibly needing to take time off work. South Dakota’s three-day waiting period is especially outrageous because there is only one abortion clinic in the state — asking women to drive there, wait three days, then drive back is a huge burden on those women, and it’s a burden not every woman can afford to deal with.

More dangerous are bills like the one in Georgia, which criminalizes miscarriages to an unbelievable degree. What if you did smoke or drink while pregnant, not knowing you were? How can you scientifically prove that didn’t cause your miscarriage? The consequences would be jail time or possibly life in prison or the death penalty. And bills like those in Iowa and Nebraska draw blurry lines between using force to defend a fetus — abortion providers could be justifiably murdered in the name of saving the fetus.

Viewing the ultrasound and listening to the heartbeat

These types of legislation seem to be geared toward new mothers who “don’t understand” what an abortion entails, that the fetus has a heartbeat, could feel pain, etc. But most women who get abortions aren’t new mothers who are unaware of fetal heartbeats and ultrasounds: 61 percent of abortions are performed on women who already have childrenthese women understand the process of pregnancy, childbirth, etc. and don’t need a tutorial. Their choice to get an abortion is based on experience and an understanding of what it takes to raise a child, and forcing them or any woman to listen to a heartbeat or view an ultrasound is cruel and doesn’t grasp that women don’t like getting abortions.

What is a pregnancy crisis center?

You’ll note that Washington has a proposed bill that would force pregnancy crisis centers to be upfront about their services. This is because pregnancy crisis centers are often anti-abortion pregnancy centers run by religious organizations or churches, advertising themselves as pro-choice with the underlying mission to prevent or dissuade women from getting abortions. They often misinform patients, either about their services or in the information they provide, and have been known to harass women who continue to say they want an abortion.

The South Dakota bill is also frightening for this reason — not only will women need to wait three days to get an abortion, but they’ll need to visit one of these pregnancy crisis centers before getting an abortion. This forces women to go to these centers — known for spreading false information, harassing women, and basing the level of service on whether the woman wants an abortion — against their will.

Unemployment rate versus abortion legislation

You might have noticed that Republicans — who pre-November-election were crying out for more focused attention on job creation and economic recovery — are now focusing their attention on abortion. Have the economic conditions suddenly brightened to allow this reversal?

There are 41 states and the District of Columbia with some kind of abortion-restrictive legislation on the table. There are 30 states plus the District of Columbia with an unemployment rate of 8 percent or higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 41 states that have abortion-related legislation on the table, 25 have an employment rate of 8 percent or higher, 20 have a rate of 9 percent or higher, and eight have a rate of more than 10 percent. The Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) — a natural unemployment rate that sits comfortably between triggering deflation or inflation — is currently 7 percent.

In other words, 61 percent of the states with abortion-related legislation on the table have an unemployment rate of 8 percent or more; 49 percent have an unemployment rate of 9 percent or more; and 20 percent have an unemployment rate of 10 percent or more. Florida, which has an unemployment rate of 11.5 — the third highest in the country and lower only than Nevada and California, has introduced 18 abortion-related bills this session. States with such serious economic problems should be focusing on job creation, deficit reduction, and economic recovery — not abortion.


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2 Responses to “A guide to state abortion legislation & some observations”

  1. Annie Says:

    Found this quote in a Slate article today. It’s an explanation by state congresswoman Sally Kerns, R-OK, of why she is focusing on non-economic issues: “I think it boils down to this: If we take care of the morality, God will take care of the economy.”

    I’m not convinced this is how all of the people behind these laws feel, but it certainly is interesting. By which I mean “terribly worrisome.”

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      I hope someone submits that budget bill to Congress. One page long: “No worries, God’s got this!”

      I think a lot of the people behind these laws do feel like it’s their job to judge morality though (and hopefully no one else agrees that we should just leave the economy alone and let God fix it), which is ridiculous — I’m not very religious, but isn’t God supposed to judge people’s moral behavior?

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