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Anti-abortion politicians and advocates have mounted a campaign to pass unconstitutional bans on abortion prior to viability based on gestational age. In 2013, extremist legislators introduced bans on abortion as early as six weeks in pregnancy. In fact, two states banned abortion in the first trimester: Arkansas banned abortion at 12 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP), and North Dakota banned abortion around six weeks LMP, upon detection of the first sign of cardiac activity. Each of these laws is blatantly unconstitutional and has been challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights and our allies in federal court. Both bans have been preliminarily enjoined by a federal court.
Not content with banning abortion early in pregnancy, Arkansas and North Dakota also passed bans on abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization. In addition, after an epic debate, Texas passed an omnibus measure which included a ban on abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization. Overall, 11 states and one municipality considered bans on abortion at 20 weeks. Moreover, three other states proposed, but rejected, bans on abortion as early as six weeks LMP.
Since 2010, 12 bans on abortion at either 20 weeks post-fertilization age or at 20 weeks LMP (which is 18 weeks post-fertilization) have become law in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the three states where a 20-week ban has been challenged—Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho—the court has enjoined each law, either preliminarily or permanently. And, the United States Supreme Court recently refused to review the Arizona law which would have banned all abortions at 20 weeks—allowing a ruling from an appellate court striking the measure as unconstitutional to stand.
For the last four decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently recognized a woman's right under the U.S. Constitution to make her own reproductive health care decisions. State attempts to take away that right by banning abortion prior to viability are a clear violation of a woman’s constitutional rights.
We don’t need to guess about the brutal consequences of such restrictive and extreme bans on abortion. We know that women desperate to end a pregnancy will find ways to do so — whether it is safe and legal or not.
Banning abortion at 20 weeks is not only unconstitutional and cruel, it profoundly interferes in the doctor-patient relationship. These bans fail to take into account women’s highly individual medical needs and circumstances. States that ban abortion at six, 12, or 20 weeks consign women in their states to a second class of citizens, returning them to the dark days before Roe. An abortion ban at six weeks is akin to an outright ban on all abortions, since many women may not even discover they are pregnant before that time.
Because of some states' restrictions, a woman’s ability to make personal decisions about her reproductive health care currently depends on her zip code. Every pregnant woman faces her own unique circumstances, challenges, and potential complications, and must be able to make her own decisions based on her doctor's advice, her personal values, and what's right for her and her family.
In 2012, the Center launched the Draw the Line campaign with the express purpose of putting the rampant attacks on women’s reproductive health care—like those described above—on the entire nation’s radar. Nearly 300,000 people have signed the Bill of Reproductive Rights at www.DrawtheLine.org, sending politicians a loud and clear message that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights, and must be protected from extremist politicians. Visit DrawtheLine.org to add your voice.
You can also urge your members of Congress to support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create stronger federal protections for the essential health care, personal decision making, and individual constitutional rights of every woman in the United States, no matter where she lives. Take action now to support this historic bill.