Six Months After Dobbs Decision, 23 States Severely Restrict Abortion While Others Move To Protect Access
In the six months after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization on June 24, 2022, 23 states enacted severe restrictions on abortion, and nearly a third were enforcing these bans as legal battles continue to unfold. To limit the impact of the decision, more states directed their legislative efforts to protect access to abortion, according to new data released today from the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University's Beasley School of Law capturing the policy landscape through January 1, 2023.
Nineteen states have near-total bans on abortion, which only include limited exceptions for life endangerment, severe health risk, rape, and/or incest. Nine of those states' bans are subject to ongoing legal challenges as of January 1, 2023. Narrow exceptions in the law offer little protection for providers and patients, who bear the burden of proof and may be required to report incidents of rape to law enforcement in order to qualify.
The legal dataset has been updated to include new findings as of 1/1/2023 such as:
- Five states (ID, NV, OK, SC, WY) contain restrictions explicitly related to self-managed abortion.
- Six states (ID, MS, NV, SC, TX, WY) penalize the act of obtaining or soliciting certain types of abortion.
- 33 states contain exemptions for pregnant people in certain criminal penalties for abortion, while 3 states (ID, NV, SC) specifically include the pregnant person in penalties.
- Six states (AL, AZ, GA, KS, LA, MO) have laws explicitly protecting fetal personhood rights.
"We are just beginning to see the harmful implications of the Dobbs decision play out through the chilling effect on not only abortion care, but all pregnancy-related healthcare," said Adrienne Ghorashi, Esq., a lead law and policy analyst at the Center and lead researcher on the project. "This rapidly changing environment has created legal uncertainty resulting in lack of access to care and negative health consequences. Tracking these legal developments is crucial to informing research and devising policy solutions that mitigate the potential harm."
In response to rising legal and public health concerns surrounding the impact of the Dobbs decision, the number of states enacting interstate "shield laws" increased from 1 to 17 between June 1, 2022, and January 1, 2023. These laws aim to shield patients, providers, and helpers from out-of-state civil liability or criminal penalties related to abortion care that is legal in the state where care is received.
Three states—California, Michigan, and Vermont—approved ballot measures amending their constitutions to protect the right to abortion, while voters in Kansas, Kentucky and Montana rejected efforts to restrict it. And 18 states have codified the right to an abortion under state law.
States have passed new measures to continue protecting and expanding access to abortion, including:
- Eight states (CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, MI, NJ, NY) have data confidentiality protections.
- California and Maryland established abortion provider training programs.
- Six states (CA, CO, DC, IL, MI, WA) prohibit penalties for self-managed abortion.
- Delaware and New York have prohibited adverse actions by insurance companies related to abortion provisions.
- California created an expedited licensure process for abortion providers.
- Abortion funding was increased in five states (CA, MA, NM, OR, WA), providing direct practical support to abortion-seekers in some states, as well as financially supporting abortion services in others.
- Eight states (CA, IL, MA, MD, ME, NY, OR, WA) now require insurance coverage of abortion care in healthcare plans, up from four in 2022.
"The existing inequities prior to the Dobbs decision have been exacerbated as states take vastly different approaches to regulating reproductive healthcare," Ghorashi said. "Researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders should respond forcefully and creatively to ensure that policy solutions address the needs of our communities without further marginalizing access to care."
The updated data are published on LawAtlas.org, now tracking the legislative movement surrounding abortion regulation from June 1, 2022, through January 1, 2023. The dataset was conceptualized by Temple University Beasley School of Law's Center for Public Health Law Research and the Society of Family Planning. The dataset provides researchers with a resource to evaluate the impact of the Dobbs decision and is a companion project to the Society of Family Planning's #WeCount project.
The researchers used a unique method of scientific legal mapping called sentinel surveillance, which captures key developments of emerging legislation in a rapidly changing policy environment and lays the foundation for more complex and nuanced analysis.
Access this and other sexual and reproductive health policy datasets available from the Center.
Provided by Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research