New suite of legal data capture US abortion laws

New legal data published to today provide a comprehensive look at the contents of US abortion regulations, relevant court cases and Attorneys General opinions that directly impact the provision of abortion services.

The 16 datasets capture 700 variables exploring abortion advertising restrictions, abortion bans, provider qualifications, reporting requirements for adults and minors, waiting period requirements, provisions that protect access to clinics, the ability for providers to refuse to perform abortions, restrictions on insurance coverage and public funding for abortion, statutory and constitutional rights to abortion, and targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP).

“This collaboration has produced the most comprehensive suite of legal data available on laws regulating abortion in the United States,” said Lindsay Cloud, JD, director of the Policy Surveillance Program at the Center for Public Health Law Research. “Understanding the cumulative impact of abortion laws on health is more important than ever, as abortion procedures, facilities, and providers face ever-increasing regulation throughout the United States.”

Key findings from the data include:

  • Eighteen states prohibit abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization (or 22 weeks since the last menstrual period).
  • There are 12 states that prohibit abortion based on the woman’s reason for seeking an abortion. These include race, sex, Down syndrome, and fetal anomalies.
  • In 46 states, providers may refuse to provide abortion services to patients.
  • Laws in 31 states require a waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion.
  • In 15 states, patients are required to receive an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion.

The datasets were created for the Abortion Law Project, through a collaboration between the Policy Surveillance Program at Temple University’s Center for Public Health Law Research, Guttmacher Institute, Resources for Abortion Delivery (RAD), American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“This database will help users better understand the extent of regulations, thereby helping advocates, litigators and lawmakers to devise strategies to counter restrictions, and enabling providers to assist their patients in navigating legal hurdles,” said Elizabeth Nash, Senior State Issues Manager at the Guttmacher Institute. “In addition, this resource will be of great value in informing research projects on abortion access and availability.”

Map illustrating state abortion refusal laws. Credit: Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research, Policy Surveillance Program

“Accurate and comprehensive information about regulations impacting access to abortion is critical to abortion providers, advocates, and policymakers,” said Janet Crepps, Director of Regulatory Assistance for Abortion Providers at RAD. “Providing ready public access to this information in one place is an exciting new resource for everyone concerned about access to reproductive health care.”

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