More than 30 states have introduced legislation thus far in 2019 to restrict or ban abortions, although the most restrictive of such laws face court challenges before they can go into effect.
States such as Alabama are seeking to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that held that a constitutional right to privacy and liberty could determine a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. The court said this privacy right was protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Supreme Court reaffirmed Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, which said states cannot impose “undue burdens” on abortion rights. But the uptick in legislative action across the country reflects the view that recently appointed conservatives to the high court could be persuaded to overrule earlier decisions.
States move to enact restrictive abortion legislation
State-by-state in 2019: What has been proposed, passed and legally challenged
Alabama passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act on May 14, making abortion and attempted abortion a felony, except when it’s done to prevent “serious health risk” to the mother. Under the law, the person performing the procedure is liable and could face 10 years to life in prison. Status: Passed; signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on May 16. The law, set to go into effect in November, is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. In July, the organizations asked for a temporary restraining order to delay the law until May 2020, but the courts have not ruled.
On Oct. 29, a federal judge blocked Alabama’s near-total ban on abortions from going into effect.
The “Life at Conception” or “Abolition of Abortion Act of 2019” was introduced in the Alaska Legislature on the last day of the first regular session. The law mirrors the Alabama ban, outlawing all abortions except in the case of a medical emergency. Status: Assigned to committee, not likely to move during special budget session. In July, Gov. Mike Dunleavy cut funding for the state’s high court by $335,000, the amount the state pays yearly to cover elective abortions under Medicaid, in retaliation for recent abortion-related rulings. The court has routinely ruled that the state should cover abortion costs under its Medicaid program.
HB 2716 in Arizona was introduced in April to repeal the unenforceable statute that criminalizes elective abortions. The bill would also have repealed several other abortion restrictions, some enforceable and some not that are on the books. Status: Held in Rules Committee.
On March 15, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law the “Cherish Act,” prohibiting abortion after 18 weeks. The bill makes exceptions for medical emergencies, rape or incest. In February, Hutchinson signed into law the “Arkansas Human Life Protection Act,” a “trigger” law that would outlaw abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Status (Cherish Act): Passed and signed March 15; (Arkansas Human Life Protection Act): Passed and signed Feb. 18. A federal judge in July temporarily blocked the ban after multiple lawsuits were filed.
While California did not introduce any significant changes to abortion regulation, the Legislature did pass resolutions urging Congress and the president to support “a woman’s fundamental right to control her own reproductive decisions.” State Sen. Connie M. Leyva, a Democrat, in December introduced a bill to require public universities to offer abortion pills to students at no cost early in pregnancy. The bill received final approval from the legislature and was signed into law.
Early in the session, a bill, “Concerning the Protection of Human Life Beginning at Conception,” failed. It would have banned all abortions, with exceptions for protecting the mother’s health, including cases in which a pregnant woman required chemotherapy and a fetus did not survive. The bill would have made abortion a Class 1 felony, which can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty. The bill, which said life begins at fertilization, provided no legal abortion exception for rape or incest. Status: Postponed indefinitely by House Committee on Health and Insurance.
In January, Republican State Sen. Rob Sampson introduced SB366, which would require doctors to notify at least one parent a minimum of 48 hours before their minor child’s scheduled abortion. Connecticut is one of only 10 states that does not require parental notification and/or consent before a minor receives an abortion. Status: Died in committee.
Legislators introduced HB52 and HB53 early in the session. HB52 would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, when a fetus is “pain-capable,” with exceptions for medical emergencies. The bill wanted to allow anyone who performs an abortion to be charged with a Class D felony. Physicians who perform an abortion after 20 weeks could lose their medical license. HB53 would require doctors to offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound or listen to a fetal heartbeat before an abortion at any stage. Status: Both bills were referred to the Health and Human Development Committee.
District of Columbia
No new measures introduced.
Florida is one of 17 states that introduced some form of “heartbeat bill,” which bans non-medically necessary abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. HB235 sought to make abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. It also sought to replace the term “fetus” with “unborn human being.” Status: Died in committee. In July, the First District Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision ending the required 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. In the majority opinion, the justices ruled that a waiting period is necessary.
Georgia passed a fetal heartbeat bill, called “one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.” Abortions would be prohibited after a fetus is 6 weeks old, although HB481 includes exceptions for cases where the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if she is a victim of rape or incest. The rape and incest exceptions require a police report to have been filed and only apply if the fetus is under 20 weeks. Abortions done after six weeks and without exceptions would be punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty if the law takes effect in January. In June, Planned Parenthood, with the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, challenged the law. Status: Passed and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 7. The law, set to go in effect Jan. 1, was challenged in a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights in June. A federal judge in October temporarily blocked the law from going into effect while it works its way through the court system.
Five legislators — two Democrats and three Republicans — introduced HB1184, known as the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” which would require medical personnel to give the same level of medical treatment to fetuses born after an attempted abortion as mandated for a standard delivery. Status: Tabled in committee.
Idaho’s SB1049, which changed terms and definitions related to the state’s “partial-birth abortion” ban, took effect July 1 and makes the ban more closely mirror the federal one, clarifying that the procedure could be used to “save a mother’s life.” Idaho’s ACLU chapter called the legislation unnecessary and says it uses “inflammatory and insulting language, just to score political points.” Status: Passed and signed by Gov. Brad Little on March 7.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June signed the “Reproductive Health Act,” saying he wished Illinois would become “a beacon of hope” for women’s access to legal abortion. The bill, SB25, repeals several statutes that had restricted abortion or affected abortion providers, and it requires new insurance plans to cover abortions if they cover other aspects of pregnancy. The bill also changes terminology in the law in which abortion refers to a woman’s pregnancy to read “individuals,” and removes pronouns from sections of existing law. The heartbeat bill mirrors that of other states by banning abortion after a heartbeat has been detected unless medically necessary. Status (Reproductive Health Act): Passed, signed June 12 by Pritzker. Status (Heartbeat Bill): Died in committee.
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed two new anti-abortion bills. One bans the dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, a surgical abortion used in the second and third trimesters. In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a provision in an Indiana law that requires abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains. The court declined to hear arguments seeking to overturn a law that bans “discriminatory” abortions, those done because of the fetus’ gender, race, ethnicity or disabilities. Status: Passed and signed by Holcomb.
No new abortion regulations were introduced. However, the 2018 Heartbeat Bill was overturned by the state Supreme Court. It was the second state to have its heartbeat law overturned. The governor did sign into law a measure blocking organizations that provide abortions from accessing federal funding for sexual education.
Kansas had no new abortion regulations proposed in this session. The Kansas Supreme Court did overturn a law that banned D&E procedures, stating that the Kansas Constitution guarantees a woman’s right to choose. Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a bill that would have required abortion providers to tell patients about a disputed treatment to stop a medication abortion after treatment had begun. The state legislature failed to override the veto.
One of 17 states to introduce a heartbeat bill, Kentucky’s law passed and was quickly challenged in a western Kentucky federal court. Status: Passed, in litigation. The law, HB 9, was temporarily blocked as the result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky.
John Bel Edwards became the first Democratic governor to sign a heartbeat bill into law in 2019. The law, like many others, bans abortion after a heartbeat is detected, except in the case of a medical emergency or necessity. Status: Passed and signed into law. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked a similar law in Mississippi. The U.S. Supreme Court in late June 2020 struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who perform abortions to maintain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The highly anticipated decision marked a major blow for anti-abortion activists who had hoped a newly formed conservative majority on the bench would use the case to begin tearing away at Roe v. Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices, however, endorsing precedent the court had established in 2016 when it struck down a similar measure passed by the Texas Legislature.
Lawmakers introduced a measure to allow physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to perform abortions. Status: Passed and signed into law.
Maryland was another of the 17 states that introduced a heartbeat bill in this session. The law would have banned all non-medically necessary abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Status: Died in committee.
Massachusetts (In session until Dec. 31)
Legislators introduced the “ROE” act (Removing Obstacles and Expanding Access), which would change or repeal some regulations and change the definitions of terms. Status: Senate committee hearing scheduled.
Michigan (Session ends Dec. 31)
A Michigan heartbeat bill would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected and require additional paperwork in instances in which the abortion is medically necessary. The legislature passed a law banning D&E procedures. Status (Heartbeat): On second read in House; (D&E Ban): Passed Senate, being heard in House committee.
Minnesota introduced the shortest and simplest version of a heartbeat bill. The actual provisions banning abortion in non-medical emergencies when a heartbeat has been detected consist of under 90 words. Legislators also filed what is referred to as a “pain-capable” bill to ban the procedure at 20 weeks, with exceptions for medical necessity. Status (Heartbeat): Died in committee; (Pain-Capable): Failed to pass by the end of the session.
Mississippi was the second state to pass a heartbeat bill this session, following Kentucky. The bill includes an exception only for medical emergencies. A district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the law. Status: Passed and signed into law; blocked by a district judge.
Missouri passed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” which started as a heartbeat bill but grew to include a variety of abortion regulations. The law would ban all non-medically necessary abortions after eight weeks, require notification of one parent in addition to the consent of the other for a minor to obtain an abortion, and ban abortions done because of the fetus’ sex, race or diagnosis of Down syndrome. Missouri’s only remaining abortion clinic is still in danger of being shuttered after the closure was temporarily blocked by a judge in early June.
Status: Passed and signed into law. In August, a district judge blocked the 8-week ban but allowed the portion of the law banning certain motives for the individual’s decision to stand.
Montana legislators introduced a “Pain Capable Abortion Ban” bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks, with exceptions for medical emergencies. Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat and presidential candidate, vetoed the bill. Status: Passed, then vetoed.
Nebraska’s single-chamber Legislature introduced a bill to repeal certain restrictions, allowing student health centers to perform abortions. Status: Died in committee.
The Nevada Legislature introduced and passed a bill that changes some restrictions and requirements for informed consent, decriminalizes providing abortion pills without a doctor and removes a requirement that a doctor determines a women’s age and marital status before performing the procedure. Nevada has the only majority-female legislature, with women making up just over 50 percent of its members. Status: Passed and signed into law.
New Hampshire’s House rejected a bill to require the collection of more abortion data. The House also killed a bill that would have repealed a law allowing reproductive health clinics to push protesters back up to 25 feet outside their facilities.
New Jersey (Session ends Jan. 14, 2020)
New Jersey was one of several states to introduce a pain-capable bill, which would ban elective abortions after 20 weeks when the fetus is thought to be capable of feeling pain. Several studies in these stories indicate that this is not medically or scientifically proved. Status: Assigned to committee, no movement.
In June, state Sen. John Doherty introduced the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” which would require medical practitioners to give the same treatment to a child born alive during an attempted abortion procedure as they would to any other child born at that time. Status: Assigned to committee, no movement.
The New Mexico Legislature introduced a bill to repeal restrictions that are currently unenforceable. The bill would decriminalize abortion, a statute that was on the books before 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision and that only allows abortion in instances of a medical emergency, rape or incest. Status: Failed to pass in Senate; the bill died.
New York made headlines with the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which deletes a variety of restrictions, including removing abortions performed after 24 weeks from the homicide code, expanding who can perform abortions and allowing exceptions for when abortions can be performed post-viability to include life or health. According to an FAQ from the bill sponsor, the measure intentionally does not define what “health” means, expanding what reasons a pregnancy can be terminated. A heartbeat bill was also introduced in the Legislature, mirroring that of other states. Status (Reproductive Health Act): Passed and signed into law; Status (Heartbeat Bill): Died in committee.
North Carolina joined a group of states that introduced legislation relating to fetuses “born-alive” following an abortion. The law states that a fetus born after an attempted abortion is to be treated with the same medical care that a normal birth at that age would receive. Status: Passed and vetoed by the governor. The North Carolina Legislature failed to override the veto. In March, a federal judge ruled that a 2015 North Carolina law banning abortions after 20 weeks was unconstitutional.
North Dakota passed a D&E ban this session, outlawing the dilation and evacuation procedure. Status: Passed and signed by the governor; the law will not take effect pending court action.
Ohio (In session until Dec. 31)
Ohio introduced a “heartbeat bill” banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected. The bill also puts in place extra requirements if an abortion is necessary because of a medical emergency after a heartbeat is detected. Status: Passed and signed into law. A federal judge in June temporarily blocked the law from taking effect.
A proposed bill would outlaw all abortions performed outside of medical emergencies. In addition, a proposed amendment would allow voters to decide to make similar language part of the state Constitution. Status (Bill): Died in committee; Status (Amendment): Passed in Senate, died in House committee. A bill that would require abortion providers to tell their patients about the possibility of medical abortion reversals was signed into law by the governor in April. In September, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a suit, challenging the law. A similar law was successfully blocked in North Dakota.
Two bills regulating abortion were introduced, one of which would have banned all non-medically necessary abortions after 20 weeks and another that would have banned abortions done based on the sex of the fetus. Status (20-week ban): Died in committee; Status (Sex-Selective ban): Died in committee.
Pennsylvania (In session until Dec. 31)
On Oct. 21, Pennsylvania became the 17th state to introduce a fetal heartbeat bill. The bill would require doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and then do so only to save the mother’s life. The governor has vowed to veto it if it passes. Previously, the state introduced a ban on abortions performed because of a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Status: Passed in House; in Senate committee. In September, state lawmakers introduced a bill requiring facilities that provide abortions to hold burials or cremate fetal remains. However, the law would not require the remains to be named, unlike similar laws in other states.
A bill was introduced to increase access to abortion by codifying the “right to privacy” that the decision in Roe v. Wade hinges on, and guarantees the right in the event that Roe is overturned. Status: Passed and signed into law.
A heartbeat bill was introduced to ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected. Status: Passed in House, died in Senate committee. A new proposal was introduced in October to ban abortion unless the mother’s life is at risk.
SB6 was introduced and would require a sonogram to be performed and verbally explained before an abortion can be performed. Status: Deferred to the next legislative session.
HB77, a heartbeat bill, and SB1257, a trigger bill that would ban abortion if Roe were to be overturned were introduced. Status (HB77): Passed House, stalled in Senate; Status (SB1257): Passed and signed into law.
Texas is one of a few states that introduced a ban on abortion unless medically necessary. The legislature also introduced a heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected. Texas was at the center of two of the most prominent abortion-related Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade (1973) and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). The Whole Woman’s Health decision struck down a number of regulations aimed at abortion providers, known as TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws. The court ruled against Texas’ regulations in both cases. Status (Ban): Died in committee; Status (Heatbeat): Died in committee. Meanwhile, five east Texas communities have passed strict abortion ordinances, which include fining doctors for performing abortions, banning over-the-counter emergency contraception and criminalizing reproductive rights groups. These towns have labeled themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn.”
Utah introduced and passed a law that bans abortion after 18 weeks, with an exception for medical emergencies. Status: Passed (57-15 House, 23-6 Senate) and signed into law. A federal judge ruled that the law would not take effect while it’s being challenged in court.
Vermont introduced and passed a law that codifies a lack of regulations around abortions in the state and guarantees a right to abortion. Status: Passed, signed into law.
A proposed law would have loosened restrictions, including changing requirements that second- and third-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals and amending informed consent laws.
Status: Died in committee.
An abortion ban was introduced in the state legislature, but it didn’t make it out of committee. Status: Died in committee.
A bill was introduced in February, banning abortions after a heartbeat is detected. Status: Died in committee.
Wisconsin (In session until Jan. 23, 2020)
A bill banning “discriminatory” abortions based on race, gender or ethnicity of the fetus, and establishing “Born Alive” provisions was introduced. The Democratic governor vetoed the legislation proposed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Status: Passed; vetoed by governor; sent back to House for a possible override vote.
In February, legislators introduced a bill that would require a person to wait 48 hours after the initial doctor’s visit to have an abortion. Status: Died in committee.
This nationwide roundup of action taken as of late October does not necessarily include additional bills in committees.