The landscape for access to abortion is shifting quickly, as state after state passes restrictive laws. Particularly affected by these new laws are women who need abortions later in their pregnancies.
In April 2010, Nebraska became the first state in the country to pass a restriction on abortion after 20 weeks, based on an unscientific claim that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks gestation. The Nebraska law banned abortions after 20 weeks for any reason except if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. Prior to the passage of this law in Nebraska, there were 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) where abortion was available after 20 weeks. Although in most of these states these services were dependent on one site and one physician, nonetheless the services existed. Since April 2010, legislation limiting abortions to 20 weeks has been signed into law in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina. Bills making access to later abortion more difficult were passed in Missouri and Ohio.
Arizona’s lawmakers have gone even further. Although the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion through the second trimester, generally understood as 24 to 26 weeks, Arizona has redefined biology and the right to abortion. Last week Arizona signed into law new restrictions on abortion after 18 weeks. By any calculation, 18 weeks is the middle of the second trimester, and mid-pregnancy. The trimester construction of Roe is becoming irrelevant in many states.