Access to abortion remains a patchwork of state-by-state policies more than six months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with abortion restricted across much of the U.S. Southeast.
The results of the 2022 midterm elections inevitably will loom large over the debate. Abortion rights advocates scored a string of victories in November, winning over Republican voters and protecting abortion in several states where access had been in jeopardy.
Michigan approved a ballot initiative that will enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, effectively guaranteeing that an abortion ban still on the books from 1931 will not take effect. Kentucky voters rejected an antiabortion amendment that would have made it virtually impossible to challenge antiabortion legislation in court. And Democrats made historic gains in the Pennsylvania state legislature, where Republicans had been eyeing an abortion ban.
But many Republicans argue that some of the election results vindicate their support for more restrictions. Some GOP governors who signed abortion bans, including Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas and Brian Kemp in Georgia, easily won reelection, giving them a clear path to heed the calls of antiabortion activists for further restrictions.
Republicans are coalescing around additional abortion bans in several states that have become key destinations for people seeking abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.
In Florida, where a 15-week ban is already in effect, Republicans are expected to pursue a “heartbeat ban," which would outlaw abortions as soon as cardiac activity is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy. Similar legislation could pass in North Carolina, where Republicans are one seat away from a supermajority that would allow them to sidestep the veto pen of Democratic governor Roy Cooper, who has protected abortion rights in the past.
Republicans also have a path to tightening restrictions in several other states, including Nebraska, Ohio and South Carolina.
Over a dozen states have banned most abortions since June — either outlawing the procedure entirely, with limited exceptions, or after six weeks of pregnancy. Some of these laws activated immediately or as soon as a designated state official certified the court’s decision. Others were set to take effect 30 days after the June 24 decision was announced, or in a set period after the decision was certified. West Virginia and Indiana passed new, near-total abortion bans in the months following the Supreme Court decision.
Most laws do not include exceptions for rape and incest. Exceptions for the life of the mother are vague and will leave many physicians wondering whether they must choose between breaking the law or breaking their oath, they told the Post.
Bans in several states are currently blocked by courts while various legal challenges proceed. Abortion rights groups and providers have challenged some prior laws as antiquated and lacking necessary clarity.
Many states have passed laws that explicitly protect the right to abortion, while others have moved to enshrine abortion rights in their constitutions. Elsewhere, state courts have protected abortion access through state constitutions and past court decisions.
New Mexico and New Hampshire lack those explicit protections, but their state legislatures are not likely to move to ban the procedure.
Here’s the latest on how the court’s decision is playing out, state by state:
A previous version of this graphic incorrectly stated that the governors of Pennsylvania and North Carolina are up for re-election. They are term-limited.
Bonnie Berkowitz and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.
Weeks of pregnancy are calculated since the last menstrual period. Fetal viability is generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks, but there’s no universal consensus. Life endangerment is defined differently in different states. Medical emergencies can include cases of severely compromised health, endangerment or physical health conditions.
Sources: Post reporting; Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate for state issues at the Guttmacher Institute; Center for Reproductive Rights. Edited by Kevin Uhrmacher and Peter Wallsten. Copy edited by Carey L. Biron.
In June 2022 the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years has protected the right to abortion. Read the full decision here.
What happens now? The legality of abortion is left to individual states. The Post is tracking states where abortion is banned or under threat, as well as Democratic-dominated states that moved to protect abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.
Abortion pills: Abortion advocates are concerned a Texas judge’s upcoming abortion pill ruling could halt over half the legal abortions carried out nationwide. Here’s how the ruling could impact access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
Post-Roe America: With Roe overturned, women who had secret abortions before Roe v. Wade felt compelled to speak out. Other women, who were and seeking abortions while living in states with strict abortion bans shared also shared their experience with The Post through calls, text messages and other documentation that supported their accounts. Here are photos and stories from across America since the reversal of Roe v. Wade.