If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, an unborn baby in Alaska still could be aborted up to the moment of birth. But in Tennessee, the life of an unborn child would be protected from the moment of conception in almost all circumstances.
How could two states in the U.S. treat their unborn children so differently? The moral or philosophical answer is challenging; however, the legal answer is simple: federalism.
Over 230 years ago, the Framers of the Constitution established in the 10th Amendment that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
If the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that made abortion on demand legal in all 50 states, the high court will be saying that the Constitution doesn’t provide a “right” to abortion, conservative legal analysts say.
Just as before the court’s Roe ruling, all states again would have the power to determine abortion law within their own borders.
States across the nation vary in how they would treat the unborn if the Supreme Court overturns Roe in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. More than a dozen states have passed something called a trigger law that would go into effect post-Roe. For the purposes of this article, trigger law refers to pro-life legislation that bans all, or most, abortions in a state once Roe is reversed.
Although a few states would allow for abortion up to the moment of birth post-Roe, many pro-abortion states won’t permit abortion once an unborn child is “viable,” meaning the baby could likely survive on its own outside the womb. A pre-born baby usually reaches viability around 24 weeks gestation.
If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe, which the justices appear poised to do according to a leaked draft majority opinion in Dobbs, it will be “the big moment that the pro-life movement has been waiting,” says Autumn Leva, vice president of strategy for Family Policy Alliance.
But the overturning of Roe would mark “not an ending, but a new beginning in the fight for life,” Leva told The Daily Signal during a recent phone interview.
Because regulation of abortion would revert to the states, “citizens’ pro-life vote will matter more than it ever has before,” Leva said, “and lawmakers will be more directly responsible for the lives saved and lost in their states than ever before.”
Look for your state in the alphabetical list below to learn to what extent the unborn would be protected where you live if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
And to learn more about what is likely to happen in your state post-Roe, check out Family Policy Alliance’s “After Roe” map and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ “What If Roe Fell” map, both of which are primary sources for this article.
Nearly all abortions in Alabama would become illegal under a trigger law, with exceptions to save the “life or health” of the mother. Those convicted of performing an illegal abortion could be fined up to $1,000 and face up to a year imprisonment or a sentence of hard labor.
Alaska does not limit abortion. Women in the state will still be able to abort their babies even past the time of viability.
Arizona has a law in place that would ban nearly all abortions. Courts found the law unconstitutional, but it likely would take effect if Roe is overturned. Arizona also passed legislation to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which would take effect as well.
Those who violate the abortion ban could face two to five years in prison. Violating the 15-week abortion ban would be a class 6 felony.
Arizona, however, does allow for abortions to save the life of the mother.
Arkansas has a total ban on abortion, except to save the life of the mother, that is ready to take effect.
Those who violate the Arkansas Human Life Protection Act and perform illegal abortions could be fined up to $100,000 and face up to 10 years in prison.
In 1969, four years before the high court’s Roe v. Wade decision, California legalized abortion. Abortion would remain legal in California up to the time of the baby’s viability outside the womb.
Abortion would remain legal in Colorado. In 2022, the state passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act guaranteeing a “right” to “have an abortion.”
Abortion would remain legal in Connecticut. State law prohibits abortion after a baby is viable outside the womb, however. The law provides no legal penalties for those who perform illegal abortions.
Under Delaware’s Freedom of Choice Act, abortion would be legal up to the time a baby is viable. State law provides no penalties for illegal abortions.
District of Columbia
Abortion would remain legal at all stages of pregnancy, including through the third trimester. The nation’s capital is considered to have some of the least-restrictive abortion laws in America.
Abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy would be banned in Florida. But in 1989, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a “right” to abortion exists, so litigation over state abortion law likely would follow.
Performing an abortion after the second trimester is considered a third-degree felony in Florida and conviction may result in a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.
Almost all abortions likely would be illegal in Georgia. In 2019, the state passed a bill banning abortion after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, at around six weeks of pregnancy. The law was challenged and is currently enjoined, meaning it can’t be enforced. The six-week abortion ban likely would take effect, however, if Roe ends.
Georgia’s heartbeat bill includes exceptions in cases of medical emergencies; pregnancies before 20 weeks when the child was conceived by reported rape or incest; or when the baby is declared “medically futile.”
Violating the heartbeat law could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Georgia also bans partial-birth abortion, but allows it to save the life of the mother. Violating this ban could result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
Under state law, abortions would remain legal to the point of the baby’s viability in Hawaii.
Performing an abortion after that time could result in a fine up to $1,000 or up to a five-year prison sentence.
Abortion would be legal in Idaho only to save the life of the mother, or in cases where the child was conceived in rape or incest.
Violating Idaho’s pro-life trigger law would be punishable by two to five years in prison and suspension of a physician’s medical license.
Abortion would remain legal in Illinois and be limited only after the baby is viable.
If a physician performs an abortion after that time, except to save the life of the mother, he or she could be charged with intentional homicide.
Some abortions would be illegal. Indiana bans partial-birth abortions, dismemberment abortions, and abortions after a baby is viable.
The state also prohibits performing an abortion based on a baby’s sex, a disability diagnosis, including Down syndrome, or due to the race or ethnicity of the baby.
Abortions performed after the first trimester, around 14 weeks, are level 5 felonies.
Indiana law includes exceptions to save the life of the mother.
Iowa allows for partial-birth abortions only when the mother is endangered by a physical injury, physical disorder, or physical illness.
Post-viability abortions would be allowed to save the life or protect the health of the mother.
Violating either abortion ban is considered a class C felony in Iowa.
Kansas has several laws in place to protect the unborn, but those measures were put at risk in 2019 when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution contains a “right” to abortion.
During the primary election Aug. 2, residents will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment called Value Them Both, which would overturn the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling and allow state elected officials to regulate abortion.
Kansas’ pro-life laws that are at risk because of the court’s ruling include those that prohibit abortions past a baby’s viability, gender-selective and partial-birth abortions, and abortions once a baby can feel pain, or about 20 weeks.
Exceptions to these abortion limits include to preserve the life of the mother or prevent her physical impairment.
Kentucky has a trigger law that would take effect and ban nearly all abortions.
Kentucky would allow an abortion to save the life of the mother, however.
Violating the law would be a Class D felony.
Nearly all abortions would be banned in Louisiana. The state has a trigger law that would take effect and allow an abortion only to save the life of the mother or prevent “permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ.”
Violating the law would punishable by up to two years in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.
Maine would allow abortions up to the time of viability for the baby.
It is a class D felony to perform an abortion after a baby is viable, or to perform an abortion on a minor without written consent from a parent, guardian, or adult family member.
Abortion would remain legal up until the time a baby is viable.
However, Maryland does not currently have a way to enforce its ban on abortions after viability.
Massachusetts would continue to allow abortions through 24 weeks of pregnancy. The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights supports a “right” to abortion.
No penalties exist for those who perform abortion after 24 weeks.
It’s possible that almost all abortions would become illegal in Michigan.
A 1931 statute makes abortion illegal in all circumstances except to save the life of the mother. This law would go back into effect, with violation a felony, but it isn’t clear whether the state would enforce the law.
Abortion would remain legal in Minnesota because the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that a “right” to abortion exists.
It is a felony to perform an abortion after 24 weeks in Minnesota, however.
Almost all abortions would be banned in Mississippi, which is at the center of the current legal battle to overturn Roe v. Wade. The state passed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, which was quickly challenged and blocked in court proceedings.
Before someone leaked a draft majority opinion, the Supreme Court was expected to rule on the case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, no later than June 30. If the court rules in Mississippi’s favor along the lines of the draft opinion, Roe will be overturned and the state’s 15-week abortion ban will go into effect.
Mississippi also has a trigger law that would ban nearly all abortions and a “heartbeat” law that doesn’t permit abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. A court has enjoined the latter law from enforcement.
The state’s abortion laws contain some exceptions. The 15-week ban allows exceptions in cases of medical emergency or when the baby has a severe abnormality.
The trigger law and the heartbeat law both provide an exception to save the life of the mother.
Physicians who violate the 15-week ban could have their medical license suspended or revoked. Violations of the heartbeat law would be considered a misdemeanor that could result in a $1,000 fine and a six-month prison sentence. Physicians who violate the trigger law could face one to 10 years in prison.
Missouri has a trigger law called the Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act, which would limit almost all abortions.
Abortions would still be allowed to save the life of the mother or to prevent physical harm below the mother’s sternum.
Physicians who violate the trigger law could be charged with a class B felony and have their medical licenses suspended or revoked.
Abortion would remain legal in Montana up to the time a baby is considered viable.
It is a felony to perform an abortion after that time, except to save the life or protect the health of the mother. State law requires three physicians to agree in writing that a post-viability abortion is necessary.
Some abortions would be permitted in Nebraska. The state has laws in place to ban partial-birth abortions and abortions after a baby is viable. Both bans provide exceptions to save the life or health of the mother.
Nebraska also has a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, with no exceptions.
Physicians who violate the 20-week or post-viability bans may be charged with a class IV felony. It is a class III felony to violate the partial-birth abortion ban.
Abortion would remain legal. Nevada prohibits abortion after 24 weeks, except when a physician says it is necessary to save the life or protect the health of the mother.
No penalties exist, however, for violating the 24-week ban.
Abortion would remain legal in New Hampshire, although the state prohibits the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The state also bans partial-birth abortion.
Exceptions allow abortions to save the life of the mother.
Physicians who violate the ban on abortion after 24 weeks may be charged with a class B felony and are subject to up to seven years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine. Violating the ban on partial-birth abortion is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Nearly all abortions still would be allowed. In 2022, New Jersey passed legislation called the Reproductive Choice Act, which removed state restrictions on abortion.
Almost all abortions would be allowed in New Mexico.
Partial-birth abortions are prohibited except to save the life of the mother or prevent great bodily harm. Physicians who violate that ban may be charged with a fourth-degree felony.
Nearly all abortions would remain legal.
New York’s Reproductive Health Act prohibits abortion after 24 weeks except to protect the life and health of the mother, but critics say the law doesn’t define those terms clearly.
That vagueness and the lack of an enforcement mechanism mean most abortions are permitted.
Abortion would remain legal in many situations in North Carolina. The state doesn’t allow abortion after viability, except to save the life of the mother or to prevent irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.
It is a class H felony in North Carolina to perform abortions after the baby is viable.
Almost all abortions would be illegal. North Dakota’s trigger law would take effect and permit abortions only to save the life of the mother, or in cases where the pregnancy results from “gross sexual imposition, sexual abuse of a ward, or incest,” according to the law.
It would be a class C felony to violate North Dakota’s trigger law.
Abortion would remain legal in Ohio up to the point of viability or 20 weeks, whatever comes first. It is illegal to have an abortion in Ohio because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Ohio permits abortions post-viability to save the life of the mother or to prevent permanent damage to major bodily functions.
Ohio passed a law banning abortion after a baby’s heartbeat is detected, but the law was challenged in court and currently is enjoined from enforcement.
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, the litigation must first be resolved before the heartbeat law can take effect.
In Ohio, it is a fourth-degree felony to perform an abortion after a baby’s viability.
Almost all abortions would be illegal. Earlier this year, Oklahoma passed a law prohibiting abortion except to save the life of the mother. This law will take effect if Roe is overturned.
Abortion would remain legal. Oregon doesn’t place any restrictions on the procedure.
Pennsylvania law permits abortions past 23 weeks if two physicians agree in writing that the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother or to prevent “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
Physicians who violate the state’s 23-week abortion ban may be charged with a third-degree felony.
Abortion would remain legal in Rhone Island until the time of viability for the baby. The law allows exceptions to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious health risks.
Physicians who violate the post-viability ban face indefinite revocation of their license, but may receive only a reprimand.
Most abortions likely would become illegal. In 2021, South Carolina passed legislation banning abortion after the baby’s heartbeat is detected. The law, currently enjoined while being challenged in court, would not automatically go into effect if Roe is overturned.
The heartbeat law includes exceptions to save the life of the mother, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when a fetal abnormality is present. Violation would be a felony.
South Carolina currently bans abortions after the second trimester as well as partial-birth abortions. Exceptions to the former are to save the life or health of the mother, including her mental health.
It is a misdemeanor in South Carolina to perform an abortion after the second trimester and a felony to violate the ban on partial-birth abortion.
Almost all abortions would be illegal. South Dakota’s trigger law would allow an abortion only when necessary to save the life of the mother.
It would be a felony for abortion providers to violate the trigger law.
Almost all abortions would become illegal. Tennessee has a trigger law that would allow an abortion only to save the life of the mother or “to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
Abortion providers who violate Tennessee’s trigger law would be guilty of a class C felony.
All abortions likely would be banned in Texas. In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a trigger law to ban all abortions that would take effect 30 days after Roe is overturned.
Texas also never repealed pre-Roe laws banning abortion, so these laws would go back into effect.
Almost all abortions would become illegal in Utah because the state’s trigger law bans the procedure in most cases.
The trigger law allows for abortions to save the life of the mother or to prevent substantial physical harm to her body. The law also includes exceptions for when two fetal physicians agree in writing that a baby has a severe brain abnormality or a deadly defect, or when the baby was conceived in rape or incest.
Physicians found guilty of violating Utah’s abortion ban have committed a second-degree felony, and clinics face revocation of their licenses.
All abortions would remain legal in Vermont, with no restrictions. The state has passed legislation saying abortion is a “right.”
Most abortions would remain legal. However, Virginia allows abortion past the second trimester only if three physicians agree that it is necessary to save the mother’s life or to prevent irremediable impairment of her mental or physical health.
Partial-birth abortion is illegal in Virginia.
Physicians found to have violated the law are guilty of a class 4 felony.
Most abortions would remain legal. Abortion is illegal in Washington after a baby is considered viable, but the law allows a physician to determine when an unborn child likely is able to survive outside the womb.
A physician may perform an abortion post-viability to save the life or protect the health of the mother. It is a class C felony to violate the ban on abortion after viability.
Almost all abortions would become illegal, with exceptions to save the life of the mother or baby. An 1848 statute in West Virginia, banning abortion hasn’t been repealed, and would go back into effect. The statute was originally a Virginia law, but West Virginia adopted it upon becoming a separate state in 1863.
Abortion providers who violate the 1848 abortion law could be charged with a felony and subject to three to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Most abortions likely would become illegal. Wisconsin has a statute banning nearly all abortions, although state courts have interpreted that law differently.
Almost all abortions would become illegal.
Wyoming’s trigger law, passed earlier this year, would permit abortion in cases of rape or incest. It also would allow an exception to protect the mother from “a serious risk of death or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including any psychological or emotional conditions.”
This report has been corrected to show that most abortions would be illegal in North Dakota if Roe is overturned.
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