Understanding State Abortion Laws
To understand the abortion laws of each state, it helps to know the meaning of the frequently used terms and nationwide legal provisions as defined by the Supreme Court.
“Fetal viability” means the ability of a fetus to live outside of the uterus. The Supreme Court and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology consider a fetus to be viable at a stage of 24 to 28 weeks, though there’s no hard line. A fetus at any stage that can’t live independently is considered “non-viable.” Most states that allow abortions restrict or ban them after fetal viability. Some states that ban abortions allow exceptions for “fatal fetal anomalies.”
Almost all state laws banning abortion allow exceptions for “life-threatening pregnancies” or medical emergencies. Several states with more restrictive abortion laws require that two physicians must diagnose the pregnancy as life-threatening. Very few state abortion bans include exceptions for rape or incest.
“Weeks of pregnancy” and “gestational age” are both generally defined as the time since the first day of the last menstrual period before pregnancy. Abortion bans “after X weeks” use this measure. Some states ban abortions after a certain number of weeks “postfertilization,” meaning the time period after a sperm has fertilized an ovum and created a zygote.
The state anti-abortion laws discussed below are specifically drafted to address abortion providers, not pregnant people seeking abortion from providers.
Attorney General James Takes Action To Expand Abortion Access
As Supreme Court Ruling on Abortion Looms, Legislation Introduced by State Senator Cleare and Assemblymember González-Rojas Will Provide Abortion Access for Low-Income New Yorkers
Program Will Also Provide Funding to Support Increased Demand for Abortion ServicesFrom Individuals Traveling to New York from Other States That Ban Abortion
NEW YORK New York Attorney General Letitia James, State Senator Cordell Cleare, and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas today announced new legislation to establish a state program that would provide financial resources to abortion providers in New York. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program would provide funding for abortion providers and non-profit organizations to help increase access to care, funding for uncompensated and uninsured abortion care, and providing resources to support the needs of individuals accessing abortion care. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks, the fundamental federal right to abortion will be eliminated, curtailing the ability of people across the United States to access safe and legal abortions. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program would support access to abortion for low-income New Yorkers and would also provide financial support for the influx of people coming to New York from other states that ban abortion.
What Ratio Of Abortions Are Performed Surgically As Compared With Those Done Medically With A Combination Of Pills
Abortion bans apply to both surgical abortions and to medical abortions, which are done using a two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. Medical abortions accounted for over half of all abortions in the United States in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Additional bans on the use of medical abortion pills have been proposed in at least eight states this year and have passed at least one chamber in both South Dakota and Wyoming. Bans on the delivery of medical abortion pills have been proposed in at least seven states this year, and passed at least one chamber in both Georgia and Kentucky.
Kate Zernike contributed reporting.
Audio produced by Parin Behrooz.
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The State Of Roe V Wade
What is Roe v. Wade?Roe v. Wade is a landmark Supreme court decision that legalized abortion across the United States. The 7-2 ruling was announced on Jan. 22, 1973. Justice Harry A. Blackmun, a modest Midwestern Republican and a defender of the right to abortion, wrote the majority opinion.
What was the case about?The ruling struck down laws in many states that had barred abortion, declaring that they could not ban the procedure before the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. That point, known as fetal viability, was around 28 weeks when Roe was decided. Today, most experts estimate it to be about 23 or 24 weeks.
What else did the case do?Roe v. Wade created a framework to govern abortion regulation based on the trimesters of pregnancy. In the first trimester, it allowed almost no regulations. In the second, it allowed regulations to protect womens health. In the third, it allowed states to ban abortions so long as exceptions were made to protect the life and health of the mother. In 1992, the court tossed that framework, while affirming Roes essential holding.
What would happen if Roe were overturned?Individual states would be able to decide whether and when abortions would be legal. The practice would likely be banned or restricted heavily in about half of them, but many would continue to allow it. Thirteen states have so-called trigger laws, which would immediately make abortion illegal if Roe were overturned.
National Background And Context
Each year, a broad cross section of people in the United States obtain abortions. In 2017, 862,320 abortions were provided in clinical settings in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and has reaffirmed that right in subsequent decisions.
However, since 2010, the U.S. abortion landscape has grown increasingly restrictive as more states adopt laws hostile to abortion rights. Between January 1, 2011 and July 1, 2019, states enacted 483 new abortion restrictions, and these account for nearly 40% of all abortion restrictions enacted by states in the decades since Roe v. Wade. Some of the most common state-level abortion restrictions are parental notification or consent requirements for minors, limitations on public funding, mandated counseling designed to dissuade individuals from obtaining an abortion, mandated waiting periods before an abortion, and unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations on abortion facilities.
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A Real Estate Tax Break About To Expire
Democratic lawmakers appear poised to let expire a divisive tax incentive program that New York City developers have used for five decades in the construction of most large residential projects.
Both Ms. Hochul and Mr. Adams have pushed for the renewal of the much-debated subsidy, known as 421a, or a revamped version of the program, which is meant to help subsidize the construction of affordable housing.
But there has been little appetite to renew the program among progressive Democratic lawmakers who have cast the subsidy as a tax giveaway for developers in exchange for too few units of below-market rental apartments.
If were going to have a program that grants such generous tax benefits, we need to make sure that the public benefit is commensurate with the tax revenue were foregoing, said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, the chair of the housing committee. I think we have an opportunity to do that in the future. Its not something that needs to happen by next Thursday.
The impact of the subsidys expiration on June 15 is not expected to be felt for years. Ms. Hochul said the state could revisit the program in the future, even as some lawmakers made last ditch attempts to assemble a package of housing bills that could include an extension of the program.
Lawmakers appeared to be nearing consensus on another housing front: legislation to help salvage New York Citys deteriorating public housing system, home to more than 400,000 low-income residents.
Payment And Support Resources
Health insurance, including Medicaid, may cover the cost of an abortion. If you are pregnant, you may have special health insurance options. Contact your health insurer to find out what your plan covers.
You may be eligible for New York State Medicaid to cover your abortion procedure. Pregnant New Yorkers can qualify for Medicaid at higher income levels. Find out whether you qualify for Medicaid, or call the NY State of Health Official Health Plan Marketplace at 855-355-5777 for more information.
Some medical offices can check if you qualify for Medicaid at the time of your appointment. If you qualify, they can also enroll you, with coverage starting that day. Before your appointment, ask your medical office if they are a Medicaid enrollment site. Be sure to ask if they require a photo ID or other documents.
As with any other medical procedure, an abortion can be expensive if you do not have insurance coverage.
If you need help paying for your appointment, visit:
- New York Abortion Access Fund, or call its hotline at 212-252-4757
If you need help with travel or lodging costs related to your appointment:
- Haven Coalition provides help with overnight lodging for those who have to travel.
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New York Strengthens Gun Laws Protections For Abortion And Election Rights
The bills were passed Thursday after shootings at a Buffalo supermarket and a Texas high school left scores dead and amid Republican efforts to restrict access to abortion and ballot boxes nationwide.
The lawmakers voted to raise the age limit for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle to 21 by requiring buyers to obtain a license that the state currently mandates for pistol and revolver ownership.
New legislation also strengthens the state’s Red Flag law, restricts body vest purchases to eligible professionals and bolsters oversight of gun dealers, among other measures.
The legislature passed the bills after an 18-year-old man with legally purchased semiautomatic assault rifles shot up a predominately Black supermarket in Buffalo, killing 10 people, on May 14, and after another 18-year-old armed with a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle opened fire on a Uvalde elementary school, killing 19 students and two teachers, last week.
Democrats nationwide are calling for tighter gun restrictions but have been met with Republican pushback. Ahead of the Albany vote, U.S. President Joe Biden on Congress to ban assault weapons in a national address.
State Senate Democratic majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said from the Senate floor Thursday that the purpose of the package of gun legislation is to close gaps in state laws exposed by the recent shootings.
How Abortion Law In New York Will Change And How It Wont
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In the late spring of 2016, Erika Christensen was thirty-one weeks pregnant, and found out that the baby she was carrying would be unable to survive outside the womb. Her doctor told her that he was incompatible with life. Christensen and her husband wanted a child desperatelythey called him Spartacus, because of how hard he seemed to be fightingbut she decided, immediately, to terminate the pregnancy: if the child was born, he would suffer, and would not live long she wanted to minimize his suffering to whatever extent she could.
Christensen lived in New York, a state where, since 2014, an estimated twenty-five to twenty-seven per cent of pregnancies end in abortion. Abortion was legalized in New York in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Abortion was a crime in most other states in New York, it became a crime with major exceptions. It is still regulated in the criminal code, and, Christensen learned, it is a crime in New York if an abortion is performed after a woman is twenty-four weeks pregnant, unless the mothers life is in immediate jeopardy. Even though the baby in her womb would not be able to live outside of it, she would have to go elsewhere to have an abortion.
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California New York Look To Expand Abortion Access Including To People From Other States
State legislators in California have proposed 13 bills to expand access.
As a leaked draft Supreme Court decision shows the court may be ready to overturn the abortion rights guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, state legislators in New York and California are looking to increase access to reproductive services, including to people coming from other states.
The draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked to Politico earlier this week and confirmed as authentic by Chief Justice John Roberts, who ordered an investigation into its public release.
Roberts said in a statement the document “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
Abortion Funds Prepare For A Dramatic Increase
Abortion funds, which help abortion patients arrange and pay for their procedures, say they are already seeing growing demand this year.
As of early May, the New York Abortion Access Fund had pledged about $350,000 this year to people seeking abortions, more than twice the $150,000 it had promised by this point last year.
Ms. Diggs and Karla Salguero, two of the funds board members, said it is too soon to tell whether last weeks leak of the draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe has directly translated into a surge of out-of-state interest.
But they have seen a steady uptick in calls in recent months from outside New York, especially from the South.
Last September, Texas passed a law effectively banning abortion in the state, kicking off the most recent wave of restrictions across the country. In the eight months since, the fund has helped 28 callers from Texas, compared with just five callers in the previous eight-month period.
Patients who contact the Brigid Alliance, a group based in New York that assists with logistical costs, usually travel about 1,000 miles to get care, said Odile Schalit, the groups executive director, and their needs typically amount to about $1,000.
When the Brigid Alliance began in 2018, the organization helped about 20 patients a month, Ms. Schalit said. Now, it supports as many as 125 monthly.
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I Tremble To Think About What Could Have Happened
For Representative Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat representing Milwaukee, securing a safe abortion in New York in 1972 would never have been possible without the help of an abortion fund based in Wisconsin.
I had no money, Ms. Moore said. I tremble to think about what could have happened.
She was about 20 years old, she said, and studying at Marquette University. She already had one child, whom her family was helping her raise.
A second child would have forced her to drop out of school and would have stretched her familys resources to the limit. But she couldnt afford to travel to New York, let alone pay for an abortion.
What you hear people say, Ms. Moore said, Black and brown women are going to bear the brunt of not making abortion accessible I was that person.
Ms. Moore happened to have befriended several women who were white and middle class, and had a phone number for an abortion fund in Madison.
Within a few days, she was on a plane to New York, her first time traveling there. The abortion fund had arranged for someone to pick her up at the airport and take her to a clinic.
Hours later, she was headed home. All of the costs had been covered.
I have had no regrets, not one day of regrets, for having terminated that pregnancy, she said. It was for me, my little girl and my future family, my two sons that I had. I did it for them.
If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe, she expects demand to surge.
Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.
How New York Is Preparing For An Influx Of Out
When New York legalized abortion in 1970, nearly two-thirds of New York Citys abortions were for women from elsewhere. If Roe is overturned, a new surge is expected.
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New York Abortion Laws At A Glance
The table below provides a helpful summary of the basic provisions of New York abortion laws, followed by a more in-depth look.
Note: The previous Section 4164 is repealed.
|Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion||As of Jan. 22, 2019, abortion is no longer in the state’s penal code. This means health care providers acting in good faith may not be held criminally liable.|
|Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion||Within the first 24 weeks or after 24 weeks if necessary to preserve the mother’s health or if the fetus isn’t viable.|
|Penalty for Unlawful Abortion|
New York removed abortion from its Penal Code. No one can be held criminally liable for aborting a fetus, even after the 24th week of pregnancy.
Penal Code Sections 125.40, 125.45, 125.50, 125.55 and 125.60 were all repealed.
|Physician Licensing Requirements|
Any health care practitioner that is licensed or authorized under Title Eight of the Education Law may perform an abortion, if it is within the scope of their practice. In addition to M.D.s, this could also include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and midwives.
‘time To Double Down’
Christina Fadden, chair of the anti-abortion organisation New York State Right to Life, told the BBC she was “extremely saddened” by the RHA being signed into law.
Ms Fadden said it was “horrific” that “there is now no protection for unborn children in the state of New York”.
She disputes the assertion that the RHA is a necessary update to the state’s law, and suggests that allowing abortions beyond 24 weeks is “inhumane”.
“I have got a fire in my belly and it’s time to double down on fighting this,” she said.
Ms Fadden is also concerned that the RHA makes abortion a “fundamental right” for women in New York, and will lead to “pro-life viewpoint suppression”.
She told the BBC that her organisation has been “overwhelmed” by the number of people contacting them to volunteer in the wake of the RHA’s ratification.
“We are still formulating our response, but we have to double our efforts.”
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