20-Week Bans

Last updated: March 18, 2016

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 September 6, 2016)

Twenty-week abortion bans with varying exceptions have been enacted in 18 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, 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 March 1, 2011 Current
Indiana Omnibus Abortion Bill (HEA 1210) HEA 1210 Indiana January 12, 2011 Current
Idaho Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 1165) S 1165 Idaho March 14, 2011 Blocked/Enjoined
Kansas Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 2218) HB 2218 Kansas February 8, 2011 Current
Georgia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 954) HB 954 Georgia February 8, 2012 Blocked/Enjoined
Arkansas Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1037) HB 1037 Arkansas January 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 January 21, 2010 Current
Oklahoma Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act HB 1888 Oklahoma February 7, 2011 Current
North Dakota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 2368) SB 2368 North Dakota January 28, 2013 Current
Arizona Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 2036) HB 2036 Arizona January 9, 2012 Blocked/Enjoined
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 2) HB 2 Texas June 28, 2013 Current
District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act HR 3803 District of Columbia January 23, 2012 Failed to Pass
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 1797) HR 1797 Federal April 26, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (SB 5) SB 5 Texas June 11, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 60) HB 60 Texas June 12, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (SB 1) SB 1 Texas July 1, 2013 Failed to Pass
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 1670) S 1670 Federal November 7, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Preborn Pain Act (SB 25) SB 25 Texas March 5, 2013 Failed to Pass
Texas Preborn Pain Act (HB 2364) HB 2364 Texas March 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 February 18, 2014 Failed to Pass
Florida Unborn Viability Act (HB 551) HB 551 Florida January 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 April 16, 2013 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Preborn Pain Act (HB 1400) HB 1400 Mississippi January 20, 2014 Current
Florida Unborn Viability Act (SB 1602) SB 1602 Florida February 28, 2014 Failed to Pass
Georgia Bill Repealing 20-Week Ban and Amending Woman’s Right to Know Act (SB 37) SB 37 Georgia January 14, 2013 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 2427) SB 2427 Mississippi January 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1285) HB 1285 Virginia January 20, 2012 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2013 (HB 2364) HB 2364 West Virginia February 13, 2013 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2014 (SB 388) SB 388 West Virginia January 21, 2014 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2013 (SB 487) SB 487 West Virginia March 8, 2013 Failed to Pass
North Dakota Bill Amending Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 2004) SB 2004 North Dakota January 8, 2013 Current
Iowa Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 45) SF 45 Iowa January 24, 2013 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 57) SB 57 Kentucky January 7, 2014 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (S 25) S 25 South Carolina December 3, 2014 Proposed
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (S 28) S 28 South Carolina December 3, 2014 Proposed
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (S 130) S 130 South Carolina December 3, 2014 Proposed
South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (H 3114) H 3114 South Carolina December 11, 2014 Current
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HR 36) HR 36 Federal January 6, 2015 Proposed
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HB 2153) HB 2153 West Virginia January 20, 2015 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 2940) SF 2940 Minnesota April 1, 2014 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 2321) HB 2321 Virginia January 26, 2015 Failed to Pass
Oregon Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HB 2388) HB 2388 Oregon January 12, 2015 Failed to Pass
Oregon Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2013 (SB 553) SB 553 Oregon February 14, 2013 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 2841) SF 2841 Minnesota March 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HF 2927) HF 2927 Minnesota March 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act 2015 (HB 2568) HB 2568 West Virginia February 3, 2015 Current
New Hampshire Viable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 595) HB 595 New Hampshire January 8, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 393) HB 393 Kentucky February 9, 2015 Failed to Pass
New Mexico Late-Term Abortion Ban (HB 390) HB 390 New Mexico January 29, 2015 Failed to Pass
Iowa Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SF 91) SF 91 Iowa January 28, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 492) HB 492 Maryland February 11, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (SB 511) SB 511 Maryland February 6, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (HB 961) HB 961 Maryland February 13, 2015 Failed to Pass
Ohio 20-Week Ban (SB 127) SB 127 Ohio March 16, 2015 Proposed
Ohio 20-Week Ban (HB 117) HB 117 Ohio March 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 March 10, 2015 Proposed
Illinois 20-Week Ban (HB 3561) HB 3561 Illinois February 26, 2015 Proposed
Texas Bill Relating to the Regulation of Abortion Procedures (HB 1976) HB 1976 Texas March 12, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 215) HB 215 Kentucky January 7, 2011 Failed to Pass
Wisconsin 20-Week Ban (SB 179) SB 179 Wisconsin May 22, 2015 Signed into Law
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 June 11, 2015 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 283) HB 283 Maryland January 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 34) SB 34 Maryland October 11, 2013 Failed to Pass
New Jersey Post-Viability Protection Act (S 1020) S 1020 New Jersey January 30, 2014 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 456) SB 456 Maryland January 30, 2013 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1312) HB 1312 Maryland February 8, 2013 Failed to Pass
Massachusetts Fetal Pain Bill (H 1930) H 1930 Massachusetts January 22, 2013 Failed to Pass
Michigan Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 4851) HB 4851 Michigan September 10, 2015 Proposed
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines for Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 4852) HB 4852 Michigan September 10, 2015 Proposed
Illinois 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 4421) HB 4421 Illinois January 11, 2016 Failed to Pass
Tennessee 20-Week Abortion Ban (SB 1770) SB 1770 Tennessee January 19, 2016 Failed to Pass
Tennessee 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 1758) HB 1758 Tennessee January 15, 2016 Failed to Pass
Wyoming Bill re Fetal Tissue Research and Definition of Viability (HB 70) HB 70 Wyoming February 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 963) HB 963 Virginia January 12, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire Pain-Capable Abortion Ban (HB 1636) HB 1636 New Hampshire January 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire Viable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1625) HB 1625 New Hampshire January 6, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Hampshire 20-Week Abortion Ban (HB 1328) HB 1328 New Hampshire December 28, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB 257) HB 257 Kentucky January 14, 2016 Failed to Pass
South Dakota 20-Week Abortion Ban (SB 72) SB 72 South Dakota January 22, 2016 Current
Iowa Bill Regarding Fetal Death and Homicide (SF 2152) SF 2152 Iowa February 10, 2016 Failed to Pass
Iowa Bill Banning Abortion Based on Fetal Weight (SF 2055) SF 2055 Iowa January 26, 2016 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (SB 749) SB 749 Maryland February 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
Maryland Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 603) HB 603 Maryland February 3, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Mexico Bill Amending the ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’ Ban (SB 243) SB 243 New Mexico January 23, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Mexico ‘Late-Term’ Abortion Ban (SB 242) SB 242 New Mexico January 23, 2016 Failed to Pass
New Jersey Post-Viability Protection Act (S 1352) S 1352 New Jersey February 11, 2016 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable Fetus Protection Act (A 1703) A 1703 New Jersey January 27, 2016 Failed to Pass
Pennsylvania Bill Regarding Abortion Restrictions (HB 1948) HB 1948 Pennsylvania April 1, 2016 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (A 3452) A 3452 New Jersey March 7, 2016 Proposed
New Jersey Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 2026) S 2026 New Jersey April 18, 2016 Proposed
New York Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (A 8078) A 8078 New York June 5, 2015 Failed to Pass
Pennsylvania Bill Regarding Abortion Restrictions (SB 888) SB 888 Pennsylvania June 6, 2016 Proposed