Abortion has long been a controversial topic in the US. In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing states to regulate abortion services. With abortion becoming illegal in certain states, it can be challenging to understand what this may mean for women seeking to end their pregnancy.
Abortion rights protected by Roe v. Wade were restricted by the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Decision in June 2022.
Women seeking to end a pregnancy, their medical providers, and other individuals who choose to assist them may face severe criminal, civil, and career-ending repercussions.
Abortion laws vary from state to state and, to date, abortion care is completely banned in 12 states.
Women considering an abortion should understand the legalities of having an abortion in their state, as well as their options for care.
In this article, we'll discuss the legal risks associated with taking abortion pills in states where it's banned and provide insight into what those seeking an abortion should consider beforehand.
Legal risks of abortion in illegal states
Medication abortion rose throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and requests for self-managed abortion further increased after Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24th, 2022. Although medical abortion is a safe and common form of ending a pregnancy, women taking the abortion pill in states where it is legally banned may face serious legal risks.
Medical professionals found guilty of having provided or managed any illegal abortion could be charged with a Class B felony and face prison time, fines, and medical license revocation. In certain states, women have been investigated or prosecuted for suspected abortion after being reported to authorities by acquaintances or, in violation of HIPAA law, by healthcare providers who were not mandated to report. Women who have been reported for attempting to obtain abortions illegally may not only be prosecuted criminally, but civil action may also be initiated against them with fines as high as $100,000. Furthermore, any individual who assists or enables another person to procure abortions could also be charged with a criminal offense or face a civil lawsuit.
What to expect if you seek an abortion
Having an abortion in a state where it is illegal or banned has the potential to be a particularly traumatic experience. Anyone undergoing an abortion should be aware of legal consequences, which can vary from state to state — ranging from fines to imprisonment for those who undergo this procedure or those who assist them in doing so. This includes medication abortion, which, while very safe and effective, may result in women facing more of a legal risk than a medical one.
Any abortion performed without proper medical supervision may result in severe medical issues. It is essential for women looking for abortion care to recognize the ramifications of seeking an abortion in an area with limited access.
Where is abortion completely banned?
Abortion services are heavily restricted in many parts of the United States. In some states, abortions are outright prohibited, often through legislation that criminalizes performing an abortion procedure. Currently, abortion is completely banned in the following states.
In other states, access to abortion may be limited by laws such as those requiring in-person physician support, a wait time between request and the abortion procedure, or patient counseling on abortion. In states where abortion may be allowed, laws vary on which stage of pregnancy abortions can be provided. It is vital for medical professionals and patients alike to stay informed of this continually evolving legal landscape to receive or provide safe medical care as needed.
The criminalization of abortions means that more women may consider self-managed abortion. Others may consider traveling to another state where abortion is legal. Whatever the choice, women should make sure they understand all their options and take every precaution available when trying to obtain medical services for abortion care. Ultimately, this will ensure more informed decisions and safer medical outcomes.
What is Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade is a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1973 that established a constitutional right to abortion. The court concluded that abortion care was fundamental to a women's right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, making abortion accessible throughout the US. Despite this protection, opponents of abortion continued to challenge Roe v. Wade, and the ruling was overturned in 2022.
What is Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization?
Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization is a Supreme Court decision that focused on abortions, specifically the regulation of abortion by the state of Mississippi. The law in the state only allowed abortions if there was a medical emergency or severe abnormality in the fetus, which was contradictory to Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court used the case to review and ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, allowing for states to significantly restrict access to abortion services.
What to consider if you're residing in a state where abortion is banned
If you need to consider an abortion in a state where it is illegal, you should seek medical advice from a qualified medical practitioner in the proper jurisdiction. It's important to understand your medical rights when it comes to abortion, so be sure to ask questions and research thoroughly before making your decision. You may also be able to access medical abortion by using telemedicine or visiting a medical provider outside the state. Take time to familiarize yourself with all available options, so you can make an informed choice that is best and safest for you.
Is taking the abortion pill in my own home legal in states where abortion is banned?
Abortion laws vary widely from state to state. In some states, the person prescribing the abortion pill will be the one to potentially face charges. In others, women taking the pill could potentially be prosecuted under child endangerment laws. Healthcare providers may be required to report individuals who they suspect may have had an abortion. This is important to keep in mind, as the need for medical care after an abortion may be necessary in certain circumstances. It is always best to seek medical and legal advice from a trusted source about the abortion laws in your specific state of residence.
- Journal of the American Medical Association. Requests for Self-managed Medication Abortion Provided Using Online Telemedicine in 30 US States Before and After the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization Decision.
- The American Journal of Nursing. Ethical Care for Patients with Self-Managed Abortion After Roe.
- Revised Statutes of Missouri Title XII Public Health and Welfare.
- Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General. Attorney General O'Connor Releases Guidance for Law Enforcement After Newest Abortion Law Takes Effect.
- Self-Induced Abortion (SIA) Legal Team. Roe's unfinished promise: decriminalizing abortion once and for all.
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- Texas Constitution and Statutes. Health and Safety Code.