ENTITY discusses abortion lawsPhoto via Vlad Tchompalov / Unsplash

Abortion has been a hot-button debate for years now, but 2018, in particular, leaves many wondering what the future of women’s rights will look like. The Trump Administration apparently floated around the idea of a “domestic gag rule,” which would limit how doctors and centers that provide abortions talk about the subject with their patients and has been promising to defund Planned Parenthood. These efforts are only the beginning of the government’s attempts to restrict access to health care and abortions.

Large portions of the population and the government are against the idea, so you would think abortion isn’t legal, or it’s pushing the question of legality.

First of all, abortion is legal. The Roe v. Wade case of 1973 made sure of that by ruling that a woman’s decision to have an abortion is protected by her right to privacy. Secondly, it’s also not in some cases.

The legality of the situation varies from situation to situation. Different abortions are banned depending on how, when and where it’s done. Here are the three facts you need to know to answer the question “is abortion legal?”

1 It depends on the trimester.

ENTITY discusses if abortion is legal

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In order to determine if an abortion is legal, you must know what trimester it takes place in.

Roe v. Wade case of 1973 ruled that women can make their own decisions on their health, which includes abortions. However, later cases like Casey v. Planned Parenthood in 1992 said that “states may regulate abortions so as to protect the health of the mother and the life of the fetus, and may outlaw abortions of ‘viable’ fetuses,” according to WNET.

The 1973 ruling also stated that states could “regulate procedure” starting in the second trimester. The fetus is underdeveloped during the first trimester and the mother’s health isn’t usually at risk from the procedure. States can outlaw any abortions after the second trimester.

“During this stage, it may regulate, but not prohibit abortions, as long as the regulations are aimed at protecting the health of the mother,” it said.

The first trimester lasts up until 14 weeks. The second trimester lasts between weeks 15 and 28, and the third trimester begins after week 29.

So… is abortion always legal throughout the second trimester?

2 It depends on the state.

ENTITY discusses if abortion is legal? That depends on the state. Map of the United States.

Map of the United States.

States vary in the ways they “regulate procedure” during the second trimester.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, there are seven states that allow all abortions (including Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont), no matter how long the woman has been pregnant. These states don’t ban abortion during or after the second trimester.

Many states, like California, Hawaii and Illinois have laws that ban abortions after “viability,” or when a fetus is “normally capable of surviving outside the uterus.” The earliest a fetus can be considered viable is around 22 weeks, but some states ban abortions later.

There are 12 states, such as Texas, Alabama and Arkansas where abortions are banned after 20 weeks.

Some states are even stricter. This year, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a law that banned abortions after 15 weeks. However, recent lawsuits filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the ban.

There are exceptions to these laws. Some abortions are allowed if there are threats to the pregnant woman’s life and health, or in cases of rape and incest.

So is abortion legal in a state as long as it occurs before the deadline?

3 It depends on the type.

ENTITY discusses abortion laws

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Partial-birth abortions,” were banned nationwide following the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. A Supreme Court decision upheld this law in 2007.

In these abortions, a fetus is partially delivered and then “killed outside of the womb,” which is the case when it’s too far along and can damage the mother. The act recognizes this fact by “a prominent medical association” and prohibits all doctors from knowingly performing the procedure.

There are other options for women after twenty weeks of pregnancy, however. “D&E” (or “dilation and extraction”) abortions are considered safer because they deal less damage to the cervix.

Abortion Laws Now and in the Future

ENTITY discusses abortion laws

Photo via @telberg.photo / Instagram.

The future of these laws is tenuous at best.

Trump’s gag rule, first of all, doesn’t interfere with any federal law banning abortions. However, according to Planned Parenthood, it can make it incredibly difficult to get one. Trump’s new proposal prevents health clinics that provide abortions from receiving any government funding, even for their other services.

Without this money, estimated to be $60 million, it’s unlikely that Planned Parenthood could provide the same safe, affordable services to the millions of people they serve.

Along with this, the lawsuit filed against Bryant’s 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi is still underway.

A Supreme Court case concerning California also caught national attention. In late June, the court said that the law regarding anti-abortion clinics violated free speech rights. The law forced pro-life clinics to let clients know that the state provides free or affordable abortions and to disclose their true intentions. While California legislators determined that this information can be necessary for a woman’s health, these clinics argue that it goes against their message, forcing them to speak against their own free speech desires.

Justice Clarence Thomas said the law “targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech,” according to NPR.

Finally, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Kennedy was a supporter of women’s health and a conservative Trump replacement provokes anxiety that the government will overturn Roe v. Wade.

These events can drastically change the future of abortions and women’s healthcare rights. It could also change the legal status of many abortion laws. So is abortion legal? Yes. Will it continue to be legal? Only time will tell.

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