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.
In approximately half the states in the country, abortion is legal, widely available and likely to be protected.
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.
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.
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.
What happens next?: The legality of abortion will be left to individual states. That likely will mean 52 percent of women of childbearing age would face new abortion limits. Thirteen states with “trigger bans” will ban abortion within 30 days. Several other states where recent antiabortion legislation has been blocked by the courts are expected to act next.
State legislation: As Republican-led states move to restrict abortion, The Post is tracking legislation across the country on 15-week bans, Texas-style bans, trigger laws and abortion pill bans, as well as Democratic-dominated states that are moving to protect abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.
How our readers feel: In the hours that followed the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Washington Post readers responded in droves to a callout asking how they felt — and why.