Access to abortion remains a patchwork of state-by-state policy months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The midterm elections gave voters a chance to approve or reject abortion policies and the politicians behind them.
Thirteen states had “trigger bans” designed to take effect shortly after Roe was struck down. Several others with antiabortion laws blocked by the courts have acted, with lawmakers moving to activate dormant legislation. Judges have temporarily blocked other state bans.
Michigan approved a ballot initiative that will enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution. (California and Vermont voters approved similar moves.) Kentucky voters rejected an antiabortion amendment that would have made it virtually impossible to effectively challenge antiabortion legislation in court. And Republicans failed to achieve veto-proof state legislative majorities in North Carolina and Wisconsin.
But Republican governors in Florida and Georgia won reelection, giving them clear paths to heed the calls of antiabortion activists for stricter abortion bans.
In 23 states and the District of Columbia, abortion is legal, widely available and likely to be protected.
Among this first wave, the antiabortion laws slated to take effect — the “trigger bans” — all work a little differently. Some 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.
Most laws do not include exceptions for rape and incest. And 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.
Other states without “trigger bans” have pre-Roe abortion bans that — in the absence of Roe — have come back into effect.
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.
In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Democratic governors have been a firewall against antiabortion legislation proposed or passed by Republican-led legislatures. The future of abortion access will depend on the upcoming midterms: If antiabortion Republicans win those governors’ mansions, Republican lawmakers will have a clearer path to banning abortion.
In Virginia, just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he had tasked four state lawmakers — all antiabortion Republicans — with writing legislation to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
While Florida has passed a 15-week abortion ban, which would allow over 90 percent of abortions to continue, lawmakers in the Republican-led state might try to go further in the coming months or years.
Many states have passed laws that explicitly protect the right to abortion, with several adding those protections this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision. 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.