The landscape of abortion law in the United States saw increases in targeted restrictions in 2019, but also some efforts to protect access by state governments and courts, according to new data published this week to LawAtlas.org.
The data capture abortion-focused statutes and regulations (or amendments to existing laws) in effect between December 1, 2018 and December 1, 2019, as well as court cases that may impact the implementation of these laws.
Our research team noticed a few trends:
Abortion bans were an area of considerable volatility, not only in legislative activity, but also court activity — There were 37 court challenges in 2019 to abortion bans that violated constitutionally established reproductive rights.
Five states enacted laws in 2019 banning abortion based on gestational age, including a law in Alabama that bans virtually all abortions throughout pregnancy. Four of these laws have been challenged and blocked by courts. The fifth, in Louisiana, will only take effect if a similar Mississippi ban, currently blocked, is allowed to take effect. There are now 41 states with gestational limits on abortion (12 have been enjoined by the courts).
Four states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Utah — enacted targeted “reason-based” bans that prohibit abortion based on the pregnant person’s reason for seeking an abortion. These reasons can include fetal disability or anomaly, Down syndrome, or the race or sex of the fetus.
West Virginia passed a new law prohibiting the use of telemedicine for medication abortion, bringing the number of states with this restriction to nine.
We also saw four states pass measures affirming the right to abortion. As of December 1, 2019, 18 states — a little more than one-third of all states — have passed statutory or constitutional protections for abortion.
The data published to LawAtlas.org cover 15 topics associated with abortion regulation, and are freely available for download.