Abortion Is Still Legal in the U.S.—Here's Where the States Currently Stand

Pregnant people still have the constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion in all 50 states.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 2: Pro-choice protesters rally in front of the Supreme Court after news broke that Roe V. Wade is set to be overturned in Washington, D.C. on May 2, 2022.
Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fact checked on May 6, 2022 by Rich Scherr, a journalist and fact-checker with more than three decades of experience.

The landmark case Roe v. Wade has protected a person's constitutional right to an abortion since 1973—but those freedoms are in danger, and there's a great deal of confusion about where abortion rights and access currently stand.

Earlier this week, Politico published a leaked draft opinion, suggesting that the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe in the coming months, giving regulatory power over abortion access back to the states. Another decision essential to reproductive rights—Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which Roe was upheld in 1992—is at risk of being undone, as well.

The sweeping changes that would be triggered by the court's ruling, if Roe and Casey are ultimately overturned, have raised countless questions about the future of reproductive rights in the U.S. But in the interim—before a final ruling is issued—many questions surround the leaked opinion and what it means right now.

Is abortion still legal across the country? Where can abortions currently be accessed? What are the restrictions and limitations in place now?

Here's what you need to know about abortion rights as they curently stand.

Accessing Abortions Right Now

The leaked opinion published by Politico was in draft form—that means, until the Supreme Court finalizes and publishes its decision, Roe v. Wade is still on the books. Pregnant indiviudals can still have an abortion in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., though the nation is a patchwork of local laws and regulations at the moment and many states have instituted strict abortion limits that make accessing the procedure all but impossible.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 44 states currently prohibit some abortions after a specified point in the pregnancy, typically limiting the procedure to the earliest weeks of gestation. The Supreme Court, though it currently recognizes a person's right to abortion, allows states to prohibit abortion after the point of viability, or the point at which a fetus can sustain life outside of the womb, except in cases in which the pregnant person's life or health is in danger. In some states, cases of rape or incest, or fetal abnormalities, are also exceptions.

Below, the specific restrictions (or lack thereof) in each state are explained further, ranging from states that are considered the most abortion-friendly to those that are considered hostile to abortion.

States With the Fewest Abortion Restrictions

A pregnant person can get an abortion at any stage of pregnancy in six states—Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, and New Mexico—plus the District of Columbia. These states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, were considered "supportive" or "very supportive" of abortion rights as of the end of 2020.

However, there are some additional nuances in some of these states. For instance, in Colorado, notice must be given to a minor's parents if a minor receives an abortion. In New Jersey, meanwhile, a surgical abortion must be performed by a licensed physician, and after 14 weeks must take place in a hospital. In both New Jersey and Oregon, individuals and private institutions may refuse to perform an abortion.

Two states, Alaska and New Mexico, have no restrictions on what stage of pregnancy a person can get an abortion, but have not codified this permissability in state laws.

Additionally, in Alaska, all abortions, including surgical and abortion medication, must be given or provided by a physician. Alaska also requires providers to counsel patients on abortion's preported link to breast cancer, which is scientifically unsupported, and a fetus' ability to feel pain, which is scientifically contentious.

New Mexico allows some clinicians who are not doctors to provide medication abortions, while only licensed physicians can give surgical abortions.

States With Varying Restrictions Based on Weeks of Pregnancy

The majority the U.S.—42 states altogether—have laws limiting when during a pregnancy a person can get an abortion, banning abortion anywhere from 20 to 25 weeks (measured from a person's last period).

Many of the states listed above also have other restrictions. In some cases, a physician must perform the abortion. In still other cases, the person must recieve similar abortion counseling to that in Alaska—about breast cancer, fetal pain, and also the potential mental health impacts of having an abortion.

There are also states that have required waiting periods ranging from 18 to 72 hours between the initial appointment and when the abortion is perfomed. And still other states allow providers to refuse to give abortions.

All states, however, make exceptions if either the physical or general health of the pregnant person is in danger, though many only for physical health. All 17 states with abortion limitations at 20 to 22 weeks make exceptions only for physical health. Some also make exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality (in some cases, only if it is lethal to the fetus).

States With the Most Restrictive Abortion Laws

According to the Commonwealth Fund, data from an amicus brief filed on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization—of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health—identified 14 states that have the tightest abortion restrictions: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.

The criteria used to rate these states were based on restrictions the states had in place regarding counseling requirements, waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, parental notifications, bans on abortions before viability, and insurance coverage bans.

Texas and Oklahoma currently have what is widely considered to be among the most restrictive laws, both banning all abortions after cardiac activity in the embryo can be detected, more commonly known as "fetal heartbeat." That's around week six or seven of pregnancy, before some people even know they're pregnant.

"Especially if you're low-income [or] if you're a teenager, most people don't know they're pregnant at six weeks," Sheila Katz, an associate professor at the University of Houston whose research includes women's poverty, access to health and human services, reproductive justice, and activism, told Health.

In Mississippi, current abortion laws are also very restrictive. A 2018 measure passed in the state prohibits abortions after 15 weeks.

"What Mississippi has done is impermissible under Roe v. Wade," Seth Chandler, JD, a law foundation professor at the University of Houston Law Center, told Health. District and federal courts have ruled to temporarily block enforcement of Mississippi's law, and abortions in Mississippi currently are allowed before 20 weeks of gestation.

Regardless of state-by-state differences in regulations, there are abortion clinics operating in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Tools to find a clinic in your area include the National Abortion Federation's map and Planned Parenthood's own map to search locations that provide abortion care.

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