Not Every State Is Restricting Abortion Rights—Some Are Expanding Them

June 13, 2019, 3:59 PM UTC

From Alabama to Missouri, the right to abortion preserved in the seminal 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade has been threatened.

Yet while a number of states are seeking to restrict abortions, that’s not the case with them all.

According to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of data from the Guttmacher Institue, nearly 25% of state laws that seek to protect or expand abortion rights since 2011 have passed in the past two weeks.

Here’s a look at some of the states that are protecting—and in some cases, expanding—abortion rights.


On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act into law. The bill, which passed both chambers of the state legislature last month, codifies existing practices. It states that women have the “fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health” and fertilized eggs, embryos, or fetuses do not have “independent rights” under the law.

In addition to rescinding prohibitions on some late-term abortions, the bill repeals a dormant law that penalized doctors for performing abortions and allowed husbands to obtain an injunction to prevent their partners from getting an abortion. It also provides insurance requirements to cover abortion procedures.

Pritzker noted that the bill “ensures that women’s rights do not hinge on Roe V. Wade or the whims of an increasingly conservative supreme court in Washington.”


On Monday, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill that will allow health care professionals who are not physicians to perform abortion procedures in the state. When it goes into effect in September, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other qualified medical professionals will be permitted to administer abortions.

“Maine is defending the rights of women and taking a step toward equalizing access to care as other states are seeking to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate these services,” Mills said.

Maine joins California in allowing medical professionals other than physicians to perform in-clinic abortion procedures.

Last month, the state House and Senate also approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program and private insurance companies to cover abortion care. That bill is now in the hands of the Legislature’s appropriations committee.


Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott also signed a bill into law Monday that protects a woman’s access to abortion. Similar to the bill in Illinois, it recognizes “as a fundamental right the freedom of reproductive choice,” and prohibits the government from interfering with this, but does not substantively change existing abortion laws in the state.

Upon signing the bill, Scott said, “the legislation affirms what is already allowable in Vermont—protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider.”

Last month, the Vermont state Legislature passed a measure to amend the state constitution to guarantee a woman’s right to abortion. It will have to be passed again by the Legislature elected in 2020 and then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum in 2022 to be enacted. Should it pass, however, Vermont would be the first state to amend its constitution to specifically protect abortion rights.


Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the Trust Nevada Women Act at the end of May, which removes some abortion restrictions as well as a requirement that doctors inform women of the “physical and emotional implications” of having the procedure. Instead, doctors will be required to “describe the nature and consequences of the procedure.”

Physicians will also no longer have to certify a woman’s marital status and age before performing an abortion. The bill will go into effect on July 1.


At the start of the year, New York passed the Reproductive Health Act. The bill decriminalizes abortion, protecting those who perform abortions from criminal prosecution. Like the Maine law, it will also allow medical professionals who are not physicians to perform the procedure. It will also permit abortions after 24 weeks in instances of fetal abnormalities or when the woman’s life is in danger.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a June 17 hearing for the ROE Act, which would authorize abortions after 24 weeks in certain situations. It would also remove the parental consent requirement for girls 17 and younger and expand state funding for abortions for those who cannot afford the procedure.

State legislatures in states like Rhode Island and Hawaii have also introduced bills to protect abortion rights, while governors from Wisconsin to Kansas have promised to use their veto power to block efforts to limit access to the procedure.

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