Guide to Reproductive Rights in the United States
Do women have a right to an abortion?
If you are pregnant, you have the right to an abortion up until the time the fetus becomes viable, and the government may not place significant obstacles or restrictions on your ability to do so.1U.S. Constitution, 14th amendment (due process clause); Roe v Wade (1973); Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992)
A fetus is legally considered viable when it is able to survive outside the womb, although this may require artificial aid; usually this means in the third trimester (or after 6 months). Even after fetal viability, the government may not prohibit abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health” of the woman.2Roe v Wade
Just how significantly a particular law restricts the right to an abortion is one of the main issues people argue over, and various courts have differing views on this. For example, if a law requires a woman to wait 24 hours before having the procedure, is this a significant restriction on her right to an abortion? Currently, the answer is no, it’s not a significant restriction.3Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992)
Specific abortion laws vary widely by state. While some states try to pass laws which contradict the above rules, these are unconstitutional, and are eventually invalidated by the courts. (Yes, a law itself can be “illegal.”) See your state’s abortion laws via the Guttmacher Institute.
Can a state require anti-abortion centers to provide information on abortion?
Probably not. Requiring these self styled “pregnancy crisis centers” to provide information about the options for women on abortion and other reproductive rights would most likely violate the 1st amendment. But the question has not been fully resolved yet.4National Institute of Family and Life Advocates vs. Becerra (2018)
Are buffer zones around abortion clinics legal?
No. Abortion opponents have a 1st amendment free speech right to protest or provide “sidewalk counselors” to dissuade women from getting an abortion. “Buffer zones” that require abortion opponents to maintain a certain distance from the facility (e.g. 30 feet), are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.5McCullen v Coakley (2014)
Do I have the right to contraceptives?
Health insurance must generally cover contraceptives for women, although employers with religious objections are exempt.
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