Opinion: Recent changes to abortion laws in America
Abortion rights have been largely untouched over the past few decades, and the issue hasn’t been top of mind for Americans in major elections for some time. But throughout the country states have a variety of laws on abortion, many of which are becoming more restrictive.
Almost all states – currently 43, including Michigan – have gestational limits on when a procedure can be conducted. Until recently, most states prohibited abortions after 20 weeks, or when viability is determined.
The most reported changes in abortion laws have come from recent passage of the so-called “heartbeat bills.” Georgia was the fourth state this year to pass this measure, which prohibits abortions after a heartbeat has been detected. That can happen as early as six weeks into gestation, often about the time a woman finds out she is pregnant, so critics call the laws outright bans on abortion. Alabama did pass an outright ban on abortions of any kind.
Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio also passed heartbeat bills this year. Iowa and North Dakota already passed such laws.
Similar bills are currently under consideration or have been introduced in other states.
Twenty states, including Michigan, currently outlaw “partial-birth” abortions. Here legislation has passed both chambers that would outlaw the dismemberment procedure that often happens in later term abortions. But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already said she would veto the bill. Right to Life Michigan has promised to attempt a petition drive to overturn access to the procedure.
Most states, including Michigan, also require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician or in a hospital.
Almost all states allow individual health care providers to opt out of performing an abortion if they so choose. Some states require women to receive counseling on physical risks, mental health and a fetus’ ability to feel pain before getting an abortion. And about half of states require a woman to wait a certain period of time before getting a procedure.
But just as there has been a push to restrict abortion access in more conservative-leaning states, several states have also recently passed laws extending abortion rights.
New York allows abortions now after 24 weeks in some cases to protect the life of the mother, and removes abortion from the criminal code. And Vermont amended its state constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion. If it passes again next year, and is approved in a 2022 referendum, it would be the first state to enshrine abortion access in its constitution.
Kaitlyn Buss is a freelance writer and former opinion editor at The Detroit News.