Is abortion legal in every state? Since 1973, states cannot ban abortions completely. However, they can ban it after the point of viability in the second trimester. There is a federal ban on a specific type of abortion and a ban on federal funding for many abortions. While abortion may be legal, it may be difficult to find abortion services offered within a state.
Abortion Law and Supreme Court Decisions
The Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade established that the right to have an abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution, which means that states are prohibited from banning abortions performed prior to the point of viability.
The Roe decision originally established viability at 24 weeks; Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) shortened it to 22 weeks. This prohibits states from banning abortions before a point about five-and-a-quarter months of gestation.
In the case Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003. This law criminalizes the procedure of intact dilation and extraction for the doctor who performs it but not for the woman on whom the procedure is done. It is a procedure that was more common for second-trimester abortions.
Although abortion is legal in every state, it is not necessarily available in every state. One strategy used by the anti-abortion movement involves driving abortion clinics out of business, which arguably serves the same function as a state-level ban. For a period in Mississippi, for example, there was only one abortion clinic that serviced the entire state, and it only performed abortions up to 16 weeks gestation.
Other tactics to limit access to abortions include restricting insurance coverage of abortion. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws-better known as TRAP laws-restrict abortion providers through complex and medically unnecessary building requirements for clinics or requiring providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which may be impossible to obtain. Laws for requiring mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, or counseling before getting an abortion place pressure on women to reconsider having an abortion.
A number of states have passed trigger bans that would automatically make abortion illegal in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Abortion will not remain legal in every state if Roe is one day overturned. It may seem unlikely, but many conservative presidential candidates say that they will work to appoint justices who will overturn this important Supreme Court decision.
The Hyde Amendment Codification Act, first attached to legislation in 1976, prohibits the use of federal money to pay for abortions unless the life of the mother is endangered if the fetus is carried to term. The allowance for federal funding for abortion was expanded to include cases of rape and incest in 1994. This primarily impacts Medicaid funding for abortion. States may use their own money to fund abortions through Medicaid. The Hyde Amendment has implications for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is more commonly known as Obamacare.