Abortion Laws

The 1972 judgment of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade is seen as the main decision on abortion laws in the United States. The Supreme Court held that a woman can terminate the pregnancy up to 12 weeks using abortion but post 12 weeks; the state has a greater interest in regulating the right to privacy.

Since the landmark judgment, the issue of abortion laws has come under tremendous scrutiny by the opponents of abortion as well as lawmakers who wanted to limit the access to abortion. In 1992, the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld the Roe v. Wade judgement and held that states can regulate other issues of abortion including waiting period requirements and requiring the abortion provider to explain the risks associated with the procedure.

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade allows a woman the right to abortion, the future of abortion law is leaning towards placing limitations on this right.

Below are some of the limitations imposed on this right by different states. Please check your state laws.


In many states, before undergoing abortion, the woman must undergo counseling. The exact counseling requirement varies from state to state but generally the woman must be informed about the chances of developing breast cancer, the ability of the fetus to feel pain, the mental and emotional consequences and the availability of ultrasounds.

Doctor and Hospital Requirements

Most states require that the abortion be performed by a licensed doctor. In some states, the law requires the procedure to be performed in a hospital while in some states a second doctor must be present during the procedure. Most states allow hospitals to refuse abortions. In some states, private and religious institutions can also refuse abortions.

Waiting Periods

In many states, a woman must wait for 24 hours before undergoing the abortion. In some states, the woman must visit the clinic more than once during the time period between the first consultation and the actual procedure.

Gestational Limits

In most states abortion after a certain period of gestation is prohibited. This period varies from state to state. For example in North Carolina and Nebraska, it is 20 weeks while in New York, Florida and Nevada, it is 24 weeks.

Parental Involvement

In most states a minor woman must have the consent of at least one parent. In some states the consent of both parents are required. Some states require one or both parents to be notified. A few states require parental consent as well as notification.

“Partial-Birth” Abortions

Partial birth abortions are banned by the federal government. A few states also ban this type of abortion wherein the fetus is delivered intact before aborting it.

Public Funding

In most states state funds can be used for abortion only under limited circumstances such as when the procedure is required to save the life of the mother or when the fetus is a result of incest or rape.

Private Insurance Coverage

In most states insurances carriers can refuse abortions but in some states the insurers cannot refuse abortions if carrying the pregnancy to term is dangerous for the life of the mother.


Many states have passed laws requiring the woman to hear the fetus using ultrasound prior to undergoing the procedure.

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