This article does not serve as legal advice. State and federal abortion laws are always under review, so if you have specific questions about your abortion rights in the U.S., it’s best to speak with a legal professional or abortion provider in your state.
Is Abortion Legal in the U.S.?
In today’s fast-changing political climate, abortion laws can be so confusing that some women wonder, “Is abortion legal in the United States?”
The answer is yes — abortion was legalized in every U.S. state by the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. So, if you’re wondering, “Where is abortion legal in the USA?” know that abortion is legal in all states.
However, that doesn’t mean current abortion laws are the same nationwide. In fact, state laws on abortion vary widely, with some states imposing more restrictions on abortion access than others. Below, learn more about the types of abortion laws in the U.S. that could affect your ability to get an abortion in your state.
Laws About Abortion Time Limits
It’s a common question asked by nearly every woman considering abortion: How long is abortion legal?
Currently, 43 states prohibit abortions after a specified point in pregnancy (except in instances where the woman’s life or health is in danger). In most states, this limit is 20 weeks post-fertilization (on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain at that point in gestation) or 24 weeks, when most states consider the fetus to be viable (able to survive on its own).
However, most abortions are performed much earlier in the pregnancy, and if you’re considering abortion, it’s generally recommended that you contact a clinic as early as possible. Your abortion provider can help you understand your options and answer any questions you have about whether abortion is legal at your stage of pregnancy.
Abortion Laws on Counseling
Abortion counseling is legally required in most states before a woman can obtain abortion services. In fact, 35 states have a law on abortion counseling. Some of those states mandate that this counseling include information on:
- The link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer
- The ability of the fetus to feel pain during the abortion procedure
- Potential long-term psychological consequences for the woman
If you are considering abortion, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the facts and your state’s laws about abortion counseling so you know what to expect when you arrive at the clinic.
Laws on Abortion Waiting Periods
More than half of the states have an abortion law requiring women to wait a specified period of time after receiving counseling to have the abortion procedure, often ranging from 24–72 hours. In many cases, this effectively requires the woman seeking an abortion to make more than one trip to the abortion clinic.
Parental Involvement Laws
For minors seeking abortion, 37 states require some form of parental involvement. Around half of the states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, while 11 states require that one or both parents be notified.
However, most states with parental involvement laws do allow for a process called judicial bypass. This process may allow a judge to waive parental consent and notification requirements if they believe abortion to be in the minor’s best interest.
The judicial bypass process can be complicated, though, so if you are considering abortion as a teenager, you should talk to your abortion clinic right away for more information about judicial bypass in your state.
Laws on Abortion Insurance and Medicaid Coverage
Private insurance coverage of abortion is limited in 11 states, most often to cases of life endangerment. However, most states’ abortion laws do allow women to purchase abortion coverage from their insurers at an additional cost. Women should contact their insurance companies to learn whether their policy covers the cost of abortion in their state.
In 32 states and the District of Columbia, state funds can only be used for an abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Seventeen states will use state funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions for women enrolled in Medicaid.
What U.S. Abortion Laws Mean for You
Today, abortion remains a federally legal option for women in the United States, though several states have passed new abortion laws restricting access to the procedure — either by imposing stricter time limits, mandating counseling and waiting periods, requiring parental involvement or limiting insurance and Medicaid coverage.
If you are considering abortion for your unplanned pregnancy, it’s important to familiarize yourself with any state laws against abortion. Remember, United States abortion laws change frequently, so when in doubt, it’s best to contact a legal professional or abortion provider who is knowledgeable and up-to-date on your state’s regulations.
Start your research early, and reach out to an options counselor or abortion clinic right away to learn more about potential restrictions in your state. The sooner you seek abortion services, the more time you will have to fulfill counseling and waiting period requirements — and the less legally (and medically) complicated your abortion will be.