Abortion Rights in The United States

Abortion in the U.S. is legal - at least according to the 1973 decision taken by the Supreme Court in Roe v. WadeYet single states have the power to restrict, discourage or pose serious obstacles to women seeking abortion. Currently, more than half of US states have at least one law against the most recent World Health Organization recommendations for a safe abortion. Only 7 of the 44 states have a Freedom of Choice Act that positively states women's legal right to abortion. Forty-four states require parents' notification or consent before letting young women access abortion procedures. Others have state-mandated counseling that is clearly biased to discourage abortion, by inaccurately portraying risks and drawbacks, or by stating that personhood begins with conception. Overall, many states undermine women's autonomy and access to rights sanctioned by law.

This resource compares the laws protection or limiting women's access to abortion in different US States. The information is organized in sections, each covering one issue that the World Health Organization identifies as an obstacle to women's human right to access abortion. This article is politically neutral, but is based on the idea that:

"Women in all countries have induced abortions. Where legal services are readily accessible and available, those abortions are generally safe; where access and availability of legal services are highly restricted, they tend to be unsafe". ~ World Health Organization

Note: Sources listed on each State or Law page. Updated as of June 2015. Should you notice any inaccuracy, please drop us a line at feedback@silk.co

Biased Required Counseling

"Counselling to women who desire it should be voluntary [and] non-directive"

The WHO notes that it is important to counsel women who face an unintended pregnancy. Informed consent is a key issue and "healthcare providers should be trained to support women’s informed and voluntary decision-making". Providers should also consider the fact that a women might have already made her decision, which "should be respected without subjecting a woman to mandatory counselling". 

The World Health Organization also warns that the information provided to the women during this counselling should be unbiased and accurately represent the health risks that might occur.

Four States Provide Biased Counseling that Exaggerates Fertility Risk of Abortion

States with Biased Counseling Providing Inaccurate Risk Depiction of Future Fertility Risks

State-Mandated Counseling Inaccurately Reports Abortion - Breast Cancer Link

States with Biased Counseling Inaccurately Reporting Breast Cancer Link

In Kansas and Texas State-Mandated Counseling is Biased to Discourage Abortion

Details on the States with Biased Information in their State-Mandated Counseling

Women Seeking Abortion Told Personhood Starts at Conception in 5 US States

States with Biased Counseling

Mandatory Waiting Periods

"States should consider eliminating waiting periods"

The World Health Organization notes that "mandatory waiting periods can have the effect of delaying care, which can jeopardize women’s ability to access safe, legal abortion services and demeans women as competent decision-makers". The safest practice is to offer women abortion services "without delay". The WHO's  guidelines explicitly recommend that "States should consider eliminating waiting periods that are not medically required, and expanding services to serve all eligible women promptly". 

South Dakota, Utah and Missouri Prescribe a Mandatory 3 Day Waiting Period

After the counseling, in more than half the States women have to also wait at least 24 hours before they can actually begin the abortion procedures. And in three states, the number of hours has been increased to 72. This places obstacles in a women's right to access abortion, especially when the counseling must be done in person and thus requires more trips to the clinic. Just consider that in 2011, "89% of U.S. counties had no abortion clinic. 38% of American women lived in these counties, which meant they would have to travel outside their county to obtain an abortion".

Mandatory Waiting Period Before Abortion (h)

In 35 States 80% or More Counties Are Without Abortion Clinic

Percentage of Counties without Abortion Clinic per State

Parental Notice and/or Consent For Minors

"Third-party authorization should not be required for women to obtain abortion"

In some countries of the world, adolescents seeking abortion need to prove they have informed their parents. In some cases, they additionally need the consent of one or even both parents. According to the WHO, this requirement is a disproportionate burden, which may deter or delay adolescents from seeking legal safe abortion procedures. It increases the probability that a young women will seek help from unsafe and/or clandestine abortion providers. Additionally, it denies the patient the status. Whether it is a parent, a husband, a partner or a guardian, the WHO suggests that "third-party authorization should not be required for women to obtain abortion services" as it undermines the recognitions of a women's autonomy of choice.

86% of the US States Require Parental Notification and/or Consent Before Abortion

Number of States Requiring Parental Consent and/or Notice

Thirty States Require Parental Consent Prior Abortion for Young Women

Fourteen States ask young women to "only" provide parent's consent. But the majority (30 States) require also parental consent.

State's stance in requiring parent's aconsent or notification prior abortion

Insurance Coverage for Abortion

"Abortion services should be mandated for coverage under insurance plans"

The WHO notes that the price of abortion - in the form of  the actual medical fees, informal expenses, travel costs, time lost from work, and so on - is a barrier in guaranteed an equal right to access safe abortion. According to the organization, "abortion should never be denied or delayed because of a woman’s inability to pay". 

In particular, the lack of insurance coverage on abortion is a burden on poorer and younger women, thus creating disparities in who has access to legal rights. The WHO prescribes that "the respect, protection, and fulfilment of human rights require that women can access legal abortion services regardless of their ability to pay. Financing mechanisms should ensure equitable access to good-quality services".

29 States Prohibit Insurance Coverage for Abortion

State legislators can prohibit insurance companies from offering coverage for abortion. According to NARAL Prochoice America, "these prohibitions can be especially damaging because their existence often isn’t known until a woman needs coverage that she assumes is already included in her health plan".

States Prohibiting Insurance Coverage For Abortion

Of These, 20 Also Don't Offer Coverage for Contraception

States That Don't Prescribe Insurace Coverage For Contraception and Prohibit Insurance for Abortion

And of These, 18 Also Have Abortion Bans in Place

States with Anti-Choice Laws containing Abortion Bans

Access to Facilities and Abortion Providers

Prevent "overmedicalized, arbitrary or otherwise unreasonable requirements"

Women seeking abortion care should have ready access to facilities and providers offering this service, according to the WHO. For this reason, the organization condemns excessive regulations that create unnecessary obstacles and delays:

"Restrictions on the range of providers (e.g. gynaecologists only) or facilities (e.g. tertiary level only) that are legally authorized to provide abortion reduce the availability of services and their equitable geographic distribution, requiring women to travel greater distances for care, thereby raising costs and delaying access. The regulation of facilities and providers should be evidence-based to protect against overmedicalized, arbitrary or otherwise unreasonable requirements". 

All But 6 US States Have Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers

States often require abortion providers to meet standards that "go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety". These requirements are also beyond what expected from most other medical professionals.

Number of States with Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)

States making it harder for women to access abortion facilities

Currently, Almost 90% of the Anti-Choice State Governors...are Men

US politics is still a man's world. Our recent analysis showed that today, only one in every four State legislators is a woman. Currently, males are 86%, or 44 out of 51, of State governors (including the Mayor of the District of Columbia). 

With only 7 female governors, it's hard to reach statistically significant evidence on whether men are less likely than women to politically support women's abortion rights.

However, it's interesting to note that female governors are 57% Pro-Choice. While this is true for only 25% of the male governors.

Number of States grouped by State Governor's Abortion Stance

Number of States Pro-Choice State Governors, grouped by Gender of Governor

Explore Data on More than 500 State Abortion Laws in the USA

Filterable Table of Anti-Choice and Pro-Choice Abortion Laws in Each Stae

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Abortion Rights in the United States by Alice Corona is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.