What are the abortion laws in America? In what states is it illegal to have an abortion?

Women's rights in the US are under more threat than ever in 2021 including a landmark court ruling that could overturn Roe v Wade.

What are the abortion laws in America? In what states is it illegal to have an abortion?
Raul Arboleda AFP

The Supreme Court ruling in 1973, named Roe v Wade after the parties involved, determined that it was unconstitutional for a US government to excessively restrict abortion. This led to a state of affairs today where it is legal in all states, but there have been renewed efforts to overturn the ruling, helped by a large conservative majority on the Supreme court; six conservatives and three liberal justices make up the nine.

Upcoming court dates could change the federal ruling altogether, threatening the constitutional right to abortion.

Roe v Wade, fetal viability, and what a ruling could mean for state law

The second ruling of Roe v Wade determines that the viability of a fetus is after six months of gestation. However, due to not taking into account technological advancements, someone's idea of what is a "viable" child is essentially up for debate. This is how anti-abortion campaigners have been rallying around their

This is why the upcoming Mississippi ruling is so important. The state has redefined the viability of a fetus from 24 weeks to 15. If it is decided by the Supreme Court that this time of viability can be changed, it opens up a whole new conversation about state s deciding for themselves when a fetus is viable, putting Roe v Wade under even more pressure.

If the precedent set by Roe v Wade were to be overturned, then 21 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible.

By the time the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Mississippi case, beginning on December 1, there will be nine states with an abortion ban from before Roe v. Wade. Basically, these states never changed their individual state abortion law, so if the federal abortion law was overturned, it would revert to their state law, a ban.

Alongside this, there are 12 states with a trigger ban tied to Roe being overturned and five states with a near-total abortion ban after Roe v Wade.

Which states have the six-week restriction?

There are nine states that have passed legislation that would essentially ban abortion by the sixth week of pregnancy, referred to by anti-abortion proponents as “fetal heartbeat” legislation. At six weeks, ultrasound scanners can detect the group of cells that will become the heart as they produce their first electrical pulses, which is utilized by anti-abortion activists as the new stage of fetal viability.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, the states that have banned abortion at six weeks include; Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The Texas law is the only one that is currently in effect while the others are being litigated. The South Carolina law is the only one that makes exceptions in instances of rape or incest.