Abortion Rights FAQs
Abortion laws have been a source of controversy in the United States for decades. From religious to legal advocacy groups, everyone has a different take on the restrictions placed upon pregnant people regarding bodily autonomy and abortion. From 1973 until 2022, abortion access was considered a constitutional right of people who can get pregnant. However, the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion access across the nation much more complicated.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about abortion rights, with answers. For more specific abortion rights information, see your state's abortion laws.
Is Abortion Legal in the United States?
Since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, abortion regulation varies by state. A handful of states protect the right to abortion throughout pregnancy. Others, such as Texas and Mississippi, had trigger bans in place to outlaw abortion as soon as the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Some could reinstate old abortion bans or restrictions on abortion services that were held unconstitutional while Roe v. Wade was established law.
After the first trimester, many states impose abortion restrictions, such as imposing waiting periods, counseling, and other mandates regarding the health of the pregnant person. They also might place restrictions on the way abortion providers or abortion clinics can operate. In most states, abortion during the third trimester is illegal unless it is necessary to save the pregnant person's life.
Do Fetuses Have Rights?
The U.S. Constitution only guarantees rights to "persons." In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court determined that embryos or fetuses have no particular rights until they have reached "personhood." So the question then becomes, "when is a fetus a person?"
Of course, this is a scientific but also ethical question society continues to debate. Courts and legislative bodies have struggled with the exact moment a fetus becomes a person. For nearly 50 years, lawmakers and health care providers relied on the Supreme Court's conclusion that a fetus became a “person" once it could live outside the mother's womb.
However, in a post-Roe world, some abortion opponents argue that fetuses or even embryos should have the same human rights as a person. Any “fetal personhood" laws, if enacted, could have a profound impact on abortion care.
I'm Under the Age of 18. Do I Need My Parent's Consent To Have an Abortion?
The requirement that minors get parental consent before having an abortion varies by state. Some states actively require parental consent for people under the age of 18, with exceptions for abuse, incest, or neglect. This typically includes the involvement of one parent, although a few states require parental consent of both parents.
Other states have parental consent laws on the books that are currently not being enforced. Finally, a handful of states have no parental consent requirements, although physicians often use their discretion on whether to notify parents of a planned abortion.
Is There a Mandatory Waiting Period Between Seeing a Counselor and Having an Abortion?
In many states, a person can schedule an abortion for the following day. Several other states have waiting periods (typically 24 hours but sometimes 72 hours) before one can have the procedure.
These waiting periods are meant to give a patient the opportunity to learn information about abortion procedures and health risks from their health care provider. In a few select states, counselors are required to give a person who is more than 20 weeks pregnant information on a fetus's ability to feel pain.
My Partner Wants Me To Have an Abortion, But I Want To Keep the Baby. Does He Have Any Say in the Matter?
Men generally do not have a legal right to determine whether their partner may or may not seek an abortion. While men have equal human rights as women, they do not have legal rights to abortion because they are not "similarly situated."
In some states, not requiring a partner's consent is seen as a safety measure. For example, a pregnant woman in an abusive relationship may be afraid to reveal the pregnancy to her partner because she fears they might hurt her as a result.
What Is the Abortion Pill? Is It Available in the U.S.?
The term "abortion pill" refers to mifepristone (or RU-486) -- a progesterone blocker created by a French doctor in the 1980s that can end a pregnancy prior to ten weeks gestation. Mifepristone is taken with misoprostol, a drug that causes a person's uterus to empty as it does during menstruation.
Medication abortions are considered safe and extremely effective. Mifepristone was approved in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 and is legal and available in all 50 states directly from a physician, clinic, or hospital. Patients cannot obtain mifepristone from a pharmacy.
In some jurisdictions, state law requires the physician who prescribes mifepristone to be physically present when the patient takes it, a significant roadblock for those who wish to obtain the abortion pill via telemedicine.
What Are "Partial-Birth" Abortions? Are They Legal?
Partial-birth abortions refer to a controversial procedure that ends a pregnancy through a method that partially delivers an intact fetus before aborting it. In the medical field, it is known as standard dilation and evacuation (D&E). The federal government banned “partial-birth" abortion in 2003, and the Supreme Court upheld that ban in Gonzales v. Carhart in 2007. However, that law does not define exactly what procedures Congress defines as partial-birth abortions.
More than a dozen states have also banned partial-birth abortions, with a few of these states banning this procedure only after viability. Most of these state laws specifically ban standard dilation and evacuation.
Both state and federal partial-birth abortion bans include exceptions for cases where the life of the pregnant person is in danger.
Learn About Abortion Protections and Restrictions: Contact an Attorney
Reproductive rights are a controversial topic from both a personal and legal standpoint. If you have additional questions about reproductive health care and how to obtain a legal abortion, it's best to speak with a family law attorney in your area. A skilled family law attorney will be able to answer your questions so you can make the right decision for you and your family.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.