Where abortion stands at the state level: Yahoo News Explains

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, it’s up to each state — plus the U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. — to make their own rules regarding reproductive rights. Yahoo News explains where things stand now and what could be coming next.

Video Transcript


MARQUIES FRANCIS: The Supreme Court's decision to overturn "Roe v Wade" with its "Dobbs" decision is historic.

- Historic.

- Historic.

- Historic Supreme Court decision.

MARQUIES FRANCIS: And in some ways even, unprecedented.

PETE WILLIAMS: It overturns 50 years of abortion precedents.

MARQUIES FRANCIS: And in many other ways, even confusing.

BRENDA PRIESTLY JACKSON: We tend to think constitutional rights, once established, don't go away.

MARQUIES FRANCIS: That's because turning abortion law back over to the states means that there are now 56 different sets of rules. Wait, 56? Yeah, that's right. Because the new rules being written are not just for all 50 states but also American territories and districts.

So from Alabama to American Samoa, people have questions. But by and large, they fit into four categories, states or territories with bans, states or territories likely to impose bans or additional restrictions, states or territories where abortion is legal but not protected, and states or territories where abortion is legal with protections. So let's look at what each of these categories mean.

States with bans-- so far there are seven states that have made abortion illegal in most, if not all cases. All of these anti-abortion laws on the books either predated "Dobbs" or were passed in anticipation of "Roe" being overturned. And now that it has, they've gone into effect.

States likely to impose bans or additional restrictions-- here's where things get a little murky. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 19 states plus Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa have bans in progress but not yet in effect for one reason or another. This ranges from states like Utah and Kentucky, where laws that make abortion illegal have been passed but are temporarily blocked by the courts, to states like Indiana or North Carolina that have numerous restrictions and seem poised to add additional restrictions to outlaw abortion in almost all cases, if not make the procedure outright illegal.

States where abortion is legal but not protected, murkier still. In three states plus Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, abortion is still legal mostly because it isn't explicitly illegal. Now that "Roe" has been overturned, these states and territories are likely going to have to make a decision one way or another, either through the ballot box or through the courts.

States where abortion is legal with protections-- finally, in 21 states plus the District of Columbia, abortion is both legal and protected by law. There are some limits, usually having to do with how far into pregnancy an abortion can occur, but they are far less restrictive than elsewhere in the country. The outlier here is Florida, where the state's highest court had already determined that abortion is protected by the state constitution before "Roe" was overturned.

CHRIS HAND: Worth pointing out that constitutional right to privacy was passed by voters overwhelmingly in 1980.

MARQUIES FRANCIS: But lawmakers went ahead and banned the procedure after 15 weeks.

- A judge in Tallahassee had first ruled that Florida's new 15-week law violated the privacy clause in the state constitution. And he issued an injunction. The state, however, appealed and that law remains in effect.

MARQUIES FRANCIS: And it's entirely possible that we'll see similar challenges happen to protections in other states. What happens next? There are efforts to codify reproductive rights at the federal level, but that kind of action is a long shot due to Senate filibuster rules, which require a 60-vote supermajority to pass most forms of legislation. So, at least in the short term, we're likely going to have abortion bans and restrictions go into effect in many more states with a smaller number of other states expanding protections.