20-Week Bans

This law topic summary was last updated on: June 07, 2017

Often referred to as “20-week abortion bans,” these laws nominally seek to ban abortion after or around 20 weeks’ gestation, though bills in several states effectively ban abortion at 18 weeks. Legal experts believe these laws are unconstitutional on their face because they undermine a key provision of Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion in the United States up until fetal viability, generally determined by doctors to be around 24 weeks’ gestation. Were the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold one of these bans, it would effectively dismantle the backbone of the court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the United States. Anti-choice leaders have been open about their long-view strategy involving 20-week abortion bans—to persuade the high court to overturn the viability principle on which Roe rests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 roughly 1.3 percent of all abortions performed in the United States were after 20 weeks’ gestation. There are many reasons women need abortions at this stage. A number of fetal and genetic anomalies cannot be identified until later in pregnancy, and some women find themselves facing pregnancies gone terribly wrong. Health conditions that threaten the woman’s life or health can develop at any point during a pregnancy. And a large share of women seeking abortions late in the second trimester do so because they face dramatically changed life circumstances or were unable to obtain an earlier abortion—a situation that’s increasingly common in states where laws are making abortion more expensive, more time-consuming, and more geographically inaccessible.

Examples of 20-Week Bans (last updated April 25, 2017)

Twenty-week abortion bans with varying exceptions have been enacted in 20 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Laws banning abortion at 20 weeks have been blocked in three states: Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho.

Twenty-week bans come in different forms, with varying purported justifications. The most popular legislative model banning abortion at 20 weeks is the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” based on model legislation authored by the National Right to Life Committee. Congress and several states have introduced legislation based on this model, which is premised on the medically disproven theory that fetuses at this stage are capable of feeling pain. The National Right to Life’s argument is based on a few selected studies, but the medical consensus is that a fetus’ nervous system is not developed until the third trimester.

Another legislative model banning abortion at 20 weeks is the “Women’s Health Defense Act,” authored by Americans United for Life (AUL) and adopted by the Arizona legislature in 2012. Knowing that the Supreme Court has historically held firm the notion that women have a right to an abortion before fetal viability, the lawyers at AUL came up with a model bill that argues foremost that this abortion procedure should be banned in the interest of protecting women’s health and lists undisputed risks of abortion in general, such as infection, cervical perforation, blood clots, and incomplete abortion. But the model law also claims that women who receive later abortions are at risk of “psychological or emotional complications,” such as depression and sleeping disorders—something that is not supported by much of the research on abortion and mental health outcomes.

In January 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the State of Arizona’s request to review a federal appeals court decision finding the state’s 20-week ban unconstitutional.

Laws

Title Number State Proposed Status
Alabama Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 18) HB 18 Alabama Mar 1, 2011 Current
Indiana Omnibus Abortion Bill (HEA 1210) HEA 1210 Indiana Jan 12, 2011 Current
Idaho Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 1165) S 1165 Idaho Mar 14, 2011 Blocked/Enjoined
Kansas Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 2218) HB 2218 Kansas Feb 8, 2011 Current
Georgia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 954) HB 954 Georgia Feb 8, 2012 Blocked/Enjoined
Arkansas Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1037) HB 1037 Arkansas Jan 17, 2013 Current
Louisiana Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 766) SB 766 Louisiana May 17, 2011 Current
Nebraska Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (LB 1103) LB 1103 Nebraska Jan 21, 2010 Current
Oklahoma Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act HB 1888 Oklahoma Feb 7, 2011 Current
North Dakota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 2368) SB 2368 North Dakota Jan 28, 2013 Current
Arizona Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 2036) HB 2036 Arizona Jan 9, 2012 Blocked/Enjoined
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 2) HB 2 Texas Jun 28, 2013 Current
District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act HR 3803 District of Columbia Jan 23, 2012 Failed to Pass
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 1797) HR 1797 Federal Apr 26, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (SB 5) SB 5 Texas Jun 11, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 60) HB 60 Texas Jun 12, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (SB 1) SB 1 Texas Jul 1, 2013 Failed to Pass
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 1670) S 1670 Federal Nov 7, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Preborn Pain Act (SB 25) SB 25 Texas Mar 5, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Preborn Pain Act (HB 2364) HB 2364 Texas Mar 5, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Preborn Pain Act (HB 16) HB 16 Texas May 28, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Preborn Pain Act (SB 13) SB 13 Texas May 29, 2013 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2014 (HB 4588) HB 4588 West Virginia Feb 18, 2014 Failed to Pass
Florida Unborn Viability Act (HB 551) HB 551 Florida Jan 16, 2014 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2014 (H 4223) H 4223 South Carolina May 23, 2013 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 626) S 626 South Carolina Apr 16, 2013 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Preborn Pain Act (HB 1400) HB 1400 Mississippi Jan 20, 2014 Current
Florida Unborn Viability Act (SB 1602) SB 1602 Florida Feb 28, 2014 Failed to Pass
Georgia Bill Repealing 20-Week Ban and Amending Woman’s Right to Know Act (SB 37) SB 37 Georgia Jan 14, 2013 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 2427) SB 2427 Mississippi Jan 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1285) HB 1285 Virginia Jan 20, 2012 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2013 (HB 2364) HB 2364 West Virginia Feb 13, 2013 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2014 (SB 388) SB 388 West Virginia Jan 21, 2014 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2013 (SB 487) SB 487 West Virginia Mar 8, 2013 Failed to Pass
North Dakota Bill Amending Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 2004) SB 2004 North Dakota Jan 8, 2013 Current
Iowa Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 45) SF 45 Iowa Jan 24, 2013 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 57) SB 57 Kentucky Jan 7, 2014 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (S 25) S 25 South Carolina Dec 3, 2014 Proposed
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (S 28) S 28 South Carolina Dec 3, 2014 Proposed
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (S 130) S 130 South Carolina Dec 3, 2014 Proposed
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (H 3114) H 3114 South Carolina Dec 11, 2014 Current
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HR 36) HR 36 Federal Jan 6, 2015 Proposed
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HB 2153) HB 2153 West Virginia Jan 20, 2015 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 2940) SF 2940 Minnesota Apr 1, 2014 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 2321) HB 2321 Virginia Jan 26, 2015 Failed to Pass
Oregon Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HB 2388) HB 2388 Oregon Jan 12, 2015 Failed to Pass
Oregon Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2013 (SB 553) SB 553 Oregon Feb 14, 2013 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 2841) SF 2841 Minnesota Mar 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HF 2927) HF 2927 Minnesota Mar 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HB 2568) HB 2568 West Virginia Feb 3, 2015 Current
New Hampshire Viable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 595) HB 595 New Hampshire Jan 8, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 393) HB 393 Kentucky Feb 9, 2015 Failed to Pass
New Mexico Late-Term Abortion Ban (HB 390) HB 390 New Mexico Jan 29, 2015 Failed to Pass
Iowa Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 91) SF 91 Iowa Jan 28, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 492) HB 492 Maryland Feb 11, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (SB 511) SB 511 Maryland Feb 6, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (HB 961) HB 961 Maryland Feb 13, 2015 Failed to Pass
Montana Unborn Child Pain and Suffering Prevention Act (HB 479) HB 479 Montana Feb 12, 2015 Failed to Pass
Ohio “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (SB 127) SB 127 Ohio Mar 16, 2015 Current
Ohio 20-Week Ban (HB 117) HB 117 Ohio Mar 11, 2015 Proposed
North Carolina 20-Week Abortion Ban N.C.G.S. 14-44 – 14.45.1 North Carolina Current
Massachusetts 20-Week Ban (H 1550) H 1550 Massachusetts Mar 10, 2015 Proposed
Illinois 20-Week Ban (HB 3561) HB 3561 Illinois Feb 26, 2015 Failed to Pass
Texas Bill Relating to the Regulation of Abortion Procedures (HB 1976) HB 1976 Texas Mar 12, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 215) HB 215 Kentucky Jan 7, 2011 Failed to Pass
Wisconsin 20-Week Ban (SB 179) SB 179 Wisconsin May 22, 2015 Current
Wisconsin 20-Week Ban (AB 237) AB 237 Wisconsin May 22, 2015 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable Fetus Protection Act (A 4509) A 4509 New Jersey Jun 11, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 283) HB 283 Maryland Jan 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 34) SB 34 Maryland Oct 11, 2013 Failed to Pass
New Jersey Post-Viability Protection Act (S 1020) S 1020 New Jersey Jan 30, 2014 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 456) SB 456 Maryland Jan 30, 2013 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1312) HB 1312 Maryland Feb 8, 2013 Failed to Pass
Michigan Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 4851) HB 4851 Michigan Sep 10, 2015 Proposed
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines for Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 4852) HB 4852 Michigan Sep 10, 2015 Proposed
Illinois 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 4421) HB 4421 Illinois Jan 11, 2016 Failed to Pass
Tennessee 20-Week Abortion Ban (SB 1770) SB 1770 Tennessee Jan 19, 2016 Failed to Pass
Tennessee 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 1758) HB 1758 Tennessee Jan 15, 2016 Failed to Pass
Wyoming Bill re Fetal Tissue Research and Definition of Viability (HB 70) HB 70 Wyoming Feb 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 963) HB 963 Virginia Jan 12, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire Pain-Capable Abortion Ban (HB 1636) HB 1636 New Hampshire Jan 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire Viable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1625) HB 1625 New Hampshire Jan 6, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 1328) HB 1328 New Hampshire Dec 28, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 257) HB 257 Kentucky Jan 14, 2016 Failed to Pass
South Dakota 20-Week Abortion Ban (SB 72) SB 72 South Dakota Jan 22, 2016 Current
Iowa Bill Regarding Fetal Death and Homicide (SF 2152) SF 2152 Iowa Feb 10, 2016 Failed to Pass
Iowa Bill Banning Abortion Based on Fetal Weight (SF 2055) SF 2055 Iowa Jan 26, 2016 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 749) SB 749 Maryland Feb 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 603) HB 603 Maryland Feb 3, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Mexico Bill Amending the ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’ Ban (SB 243) SB 243 New Mexico Jan 23, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Mexico ‘Late-Term’ Abortion Ban (SB 242) SB 242 New Mexico Jan 23, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Jersey Post-Viability Protection Act (S 1352) S 1352 New Jersey Feb 11, 2016 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable Fetus Protection Act (A 1703) A 1703 New Jersey Jan 27, 2016 Failed to Pass
Pennsylvania Bill Regarding Abortion Restrictions (HB 1948) HB 1948 Pennsylvania Apr 1, 2016 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable ‘Unborn Child’ Protection Act (A 3452) A 3452 New Jersey Mar 7, 2016 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable ‘Unborn Child’ Protection Act (S 2026) S 2026 New Jersey Apr 18, 2016 Proposed
New York Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (A 8078) A 8078 New York Jun 5, 2015 Failed to Pass
Pennsylvania Bill Regarding Abortion Restrictions (SB 888) SB 888 Pennsylvania Jun 6, 2016 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1473) HB 1473 Virginia Dec 12, 2016 Failed to Pass
Kentucky 20-Week Abortion Ban (SB 5) SB 5 Kentucky Jan 3, 2017 Current
Iowa Bill Regarding Fetal Death and Feticide (SF 54) SF 54 Iowa Jan 11, 2017 Proposed
Iowa 20-Week Abortion Ban (SF 53) SF 53 Iowa Jan 11, 2017 Proposed
Florida Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 348) SB 348 Florida Jan 11, 2017 Failed to Pass
Florida Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 203) HB 203 Florida Jan 10, 2017 Failed to Pass
Florida FOIA Abortion Report Exemption (HB 215) HB 2015 Florida Jan 11, 2017 Failed to Pass
Florida FOIA Abortion Report Exemption (SB 342) SB 342 Florida Jan 11, 2017 Failed to Pass
New Mexico ‘Late-Term’ Abortion Ban (HB 220) HB 220 New Mexico Jan 19, 2017 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire Viable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 578) HB 578 New Hampshire Jan 20, 2017 Failed to Pass
Tennessee 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 101) HB 101 Tennessee Jan 25, 2017 Proposed
South Dakota Bill Increasing the Penalty for 20-Week Abortions (HB 1101) HB 1101 South Dakota Jan 26, 2017 Signed into Law
Missouri 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 757) HB 757 Missouri Jan 25, 2017 Proposed
Missouri 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 692) HB 692 Missouri Jan 23, 2017 Proposed
New Mexico ‘Late-Term’ Abortion Ban (SB 183) SB 183 New Mexico Jan 20, 2017 Failed to Pass
Pennsylvania 20-Week and ‘Dismemberment Abortion’ Ban (SB 3) SB 3 Pennsylvania Feb 2, 2017 Proposed
Tennessee 20-Week Abortion Ban (SB 766) SB 766 Tennessee Feb 9, 2017 Proposed
New York 20-Week and ‘Dismemberment Abortion’ Ban (A 4777) A 4777 New York Feb 3, 2017 Proposed
Missouri ‘Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’ (HB 908) HB 908 Missouri Feb 9, 2017 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 547) HB 547 Maryland Proposed
Illinois 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 3210) HB 3210 Illinois Feb 9, 2017 Proposed
Montana ‘Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’ (SB 329) SB 329 Montana Feb 22, 2017 Failed to Pass
Iowa 20-Week Abortion Ban (HF 298) HF 298 Iowa Feb 14, 2017 Proposed
Iowa 20-Week Abortion Ban (SF 471) SF 471 Iowa Mar 7, 2017 Current
Pennsylvania 20-Week and ‘Dismemberment Abortion’ Ban (HB 77) HB 77 Pennsylvania Feb 21, 2017 Proposed
Missouri ‘Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’ (HB 1) HB 1 Missouri Jun 12, 2017 Proposed