The widening gap in abortion laws in the US

Alabama has created the nation's strictest abortion ban, the latest attempt to prompt the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Gov. Kay Ivey, R, signed the bill that makes performing virtually all abortions a crime. Many other states have passed laws this year to limit abortion or even try to ban it altogether in the hope that the Supreme Court with President Donald Trump's two appointees will be more likely to approve them. Most of the new restrictions are in the South and Midwest.

In contrast, New York removed old restrictions and affirmed access to abortion. Vermont approved the first step to amend its constitution to protect abortion rights. The recent laws fit the trend over the past two decades of tightening restrictions where abortions were already most limited. That trend is increasing the gap between abortion rights in different regions of the country. The map below depicts where abortion is currently most protected and restricted as measured by the Guttmacher Institute, a group working for abortion rights.

Each state's rating is based on six key abortion restrictions and six protections for access.

A state with all the restrictions and no protections would have the highest restriction value. Seven states have that maximum level.

A state with all of the protections and no restrictions would have the highest protection rating. Only California has all six.

The differences have become more extreme over time. No state had all six protections or restrictions in 2000 or 2010.

The six key restrictions include bans on many or most abortions, required counseling or waiting periods, restriction on Medicaid funding, prohibition of telemedicine for administering an abortion pill, required parental involvement for patients younger than 18 and specific restrictions on abortion clinics.


The protections include support in the state constitution, legal standards protecting access, Medicaid coverage, permission for physician assistant or other providers, required private insurance coverage and protection for clinics.

Going beyond those specific restrictions and protections, a total of 660 abortion limits or bans have been imposed since 2001 and 33 efforts to improve access.

Many states have sought to overturn the national protection of abortion established by the Supreme Court more than 45 years ago in Roe v. Wade. Those states have enacted bans on many or most abortions. Supreme Court blessing of a ban would overturn the Roe standard. So far, all of those laws have been blocked by the courts on grounds that they are unconstitutional.

Louisiana hospital privileges

A Louisiana law requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. The law resembles a Texas law struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. The court voted 5 to 4 in February to impose an emergency block on this law so there is a fair chance it will take the case. The law had been upheld by an appeals court, so if the Supreme Court does not take it, the restriction would take effect.

Alabama procedure

Alabama banned the type of procedure most often used in cases after about 15 weeks of pregnancy. A trial court and appeals court ruled the ban unconstitutional. The state has appealed to the Supreme Court.

Indiana reasons and burial

An Indiana law forbids abortion for some reasons, such as because of a potential disability. Another law requires fetal tissue to be buried or cremated. An appeals court said both were unconstitutional. The state is asking the Supreme Court to uphold the laws.

Indiana waiting period

In another case stemming from Indiana, a law requires an ultrasound 18 hours before the abortion procedure, essentially requiring a two-day process. The law was blocked by an appeals court, and the state is seeking to have it go into effect while objections are litigated.

Mississippi 15-week ban

Last year, Mississippi banned all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A federal court ruled the ban unconstitutional. The state took the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. A decision there could be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Kentucky six-week ban

A 2019 Kentucky law that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy was blocked in the courts. The case has not yet been appealed.

Bans passed this year

Several states have passed bans or restrictions this year, including Georgia and Mississippi bans on abortions after six weeks. Alabama passed a ban on almost all abortions. On Friday, Missouri lawmakers passed an antiabortion bill that would criminalize the procedure at eight weeks of pregnancy. The governor is expected to sign the bill. Those cases have not yet gone to court.

Sources: Guttmacher Institute, ACLU Reproductive Freedom project, Center for Reproductive Rights, Americans United for Life, NARAL Pro-Choice America