Background

For decades, states have attempted to limit access to abortion after the first trimester by enacting restrictions on specific abortion methods. In the 1990s and early 2000s, most of the attention focused on attempts to ban “partial-birth” abortion. Although they used varying definitions of “partial-birth” abortion, the laws all banned the procedure except in the rarest circumstances. Many, but not all, of these state-level restrictions were struck down in courts. However, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal version in 2007 in Gonzales v. Carhart. That law, which applies across the country, bans “partial-birth” abortion except when the woman’s life is endangered and does not contain an exception to protect the woman’s health. Moreover, although the law does not include a precise medical definition of what is banned, the Court found the federal law’s definition sufficient to pass constitutional muster and applied it to the dilation and extraction (D&X) abortion method. The federal law is currently in effect, along with several state laws that allow for state and local law enforcement of the method ban and, potentially, stiffer penalties for violations.

More recently, states began enacting laws banning the abortion method most commonly used in the second trimester, dilation and evacuation (D&E). So far, all of these laws have very limited exceptions; they allow a woman to obtain an abortion using this method only when necessary to protect her life or in case of a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” The laws do not make an exception for serious mental health conditions.

Highlights

Bans on Specific Abortion Methods After 1st Trimester

STATE

DILATION & EVACUATION ABORTION

"PARTIAL-BIRTH" ABORTION

Procedure Banned

Exceptions in Cases of Life or Severe Physical Health

Procedure Banned

Exception in Cases of Life or Health

Exception Only in Case of Life Endangerment

Alabama

 

 

Alaska

 

 

 

 

Arizona

 

 

X

 

X

Arkansas

 §

 §

X

 

X

Florida

 

 

 

 

Georgia

 

 

X*

X*

 

Idaho

 

 

 

 

Illinois

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana

▽​

▽​

 

Iowa

 

 

 

 

Kansas

§

§

X

 

X

Kentucky

§

§

 

 

Louisiana

§

§

X

 

X

Michigan

 

 

X

 

X

Mississippi

X

X

 

 

 

Missouri

 

 

 

 

Montana

 

 

*

 

*

Nebraska

 

 

 

 

New Hampshire

 

 

X

 

X

New Jersey

 

 

 

 

New Mexico

 

 

X*

X*,

 

North Dakota

 

 

X

 

X

Ohio

§ 

§ 

X

X

 

Oklahoma

§

§

 

Rhode Island

 

 

 

 

South Carolina

 

 

 

South Dakota

 

 

 

Tennessee

 

 

 

Texas

X

 

X

Utah

 

 

X

 

X

Virginia

 

 

X

 

X

West Virginia

X

X

 

 

Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

TOTAL

2

2

20

3

16

  Enforcement permanently enjoined by court order; policy not in effect.

§    This law is temporarily enjoined pending a final decision in the courts.

X   Policy is currently in effect.

*    Law applies after viability.

    This policy is presumably unenforceable under the terms set out in Stenberg v. Carhart; however, it has not been challenged in court.

    The health exception only applies to severe physical health conditions.