Women’s reproductive rights are always a hot topic during elections. All politicians present their stance on abortion rights and women’s healthcare surrounding other reproductive issues. Currently, 39 states require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician and 20 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital after a specified point of a pregnancy. Additionally, 18 states currently require the involvement of a second physician after a specified point of a pregnancy, if an abortion is pursued. The discussions and definitions on the “viability” of a fetus are often muddied by different interpretations. As the standard definition of viability means the ability of the fetus to survive outside of the uterus, this can vary among pregnancies. As most pregnancies are viable after the 27th week, and no pregnancies are viable before the 21st week, a firm definition is always in the “grey area.”
Though each state sets its own mandates regarding abortion laws, federal laws are also in place to regulate how and when women may seek the procedure and any assistance that may be provided by government funding. As reported by Planned Parenthood, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the first-ever federal law banning abortion procedures on April 18, 2007, and gave politicians the green light to interfere in the private health care decisions of women and families. This particular federal abortion ban criminalizes abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy. 41 states have adopted this mandate and prohibit abortions after a specified time of the pregnancy, except when necessary to protect the woman’s life or health.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
As reported by the Guttmacher Institute, the following facts surrounding state abortion laws should be recognized:
• “Partial-Birth” Abortion: 19 states have laws in effect that prohibit “partial-birth” abortion. 3 of these laws apply only to post viability abortions.
• Public Funding: 17 states use their own funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions for Medicaid enrollees in the state. 32 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of state funds except in those cases when federal funds are available: where the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In defiance of federal requirements, South Dakota limits funding to cases of life endangerment only.
• Coverage by Private Insurance: 9 states restrict coverage of abortion in private insurance plans, most often limiting coverage only to when the woman’s life would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term. Most states allow the purchase of additional abortion coverage at an additional cost.
• Refusal: 46 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to participate in an abortion. 43 states allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions, 16 of which limit refusal to private or religious institutions.
• State-Mandated Counseling: 17 states mandate that women be given counseling before an abortion that includes information on at least one of the following: the purported link between abortion and breast cancer (5 states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (12 states) or long-term mental health consequences for the woman (8 states).
• Waiting Periods: 26 states require a woman seeking an abortion to wait a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, between when she receives counseling and the procedure is performed. 9 of these states have laws that effectively require the woman make two separate trips to the clinic to obtain the procedure.
• Parental Involvement: 38 states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion. 21 states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, while 12 require that one or both parents be notified and 5 states require both parental consent and notification
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
If you are pro-choice, many institutions, including Planned Parenthood, have identified several forms of attacks that are perceived to have transcended upon abortion rights. This includes unconstitutional abortion bans as some states seek to ban abortions after the 6th and 12th week of pregnancy. Additionally, physical attacks have been made upon patients of abortion clinics as well as biased counseling of patients, targeted restrictions of abortion providers (TRAP) via bills and regulations, non-surgical abortion bans, and “personhood” measures which seek to interfere with personal, private, medical decisions relating to birth control, access to fertility treatments, management of miscarriage, and access to safe and legal abortions.
If you are of childbearing age, or are the parent or guardian of someone who is, it is imperative that you are abreast of the state laws that may affect you.
To view the current state by state laws that may affect you, please visit the Guttmacher website for a full and detailed overview of state abortion laws.