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The U.S. states with the most restrictive abortion laws

Alabama has banned nearly all abortions, creating exceptions only to protect the mother's health. The bill was signed by the state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who is a strong opponent of abortion. Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected. Embryonic cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant. 

Anti-abortion advocates know any laws they pass are certain to be challenged. Courts this year have blocked a restrictive Kentucky law and another in Iowa passed last year. But supporters of the Alabama ban said the right to life of the fetus transcends other rights, an idea they would like tested at the Supreme Court. The high court, now with a majority of conservative justices after Republican President Donald Trump appointed two, could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion.

While challenges to state bans on certain abortion procedures and abortion access remain on appeal in the federal courts, the most recent bans have been based on gestational age. Here are the states with the country's most restrictive abortion laws, based on gestational age or fetal development. 

REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Alabama has banned nearly all abortions, creating exceptions only to protect the mother's health. The bill was signed by the state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who is a strong opponent of abortion. Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been...more

Alabama has banned nearly all abortions, creating exceptions only to protect the mother's health. The bill was signed by the state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who is a strong opponent of abortion. Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected. Embryonic cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant. Anti-abortion advocates know any laws they pass are certain to be challenged. Courts this year have blocked a restrictive Kentucky law and another in Iowa passed last year. But supporters of the Alabama ban said the right to life of the fetus transcends other rights, an idea they would like tested at the Supreme Court. The high court, now with a majority of conservative justices after Republican President Donald Trump appointed two, could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion. While challenges to state bans on certain abortion procedures and abortion access remain on appeal in the federal courts, the most recent bans have been based on gestational age. Here are the states with the country's most restrictive abortion laws, based on gestational age or fetal development. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
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ALABAMA: Alabama outlawed nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, with exceptions only to protect the mother's health, when Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed the measure on May 15, 2019. Those performing abortions would be committing a felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison, although a woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable. The Republican-controlled Alabama Senate also defeated a Democratic amendment that would have allowed legal abortions for women and girls impregnated by rape and incest. The law, which passed 25-6, will take effect six months after being signed by the governor (pictured), but is certain to face legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. 

REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

ALABAMA: Alabama outlawed nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, with exceptions only to protect the mother's health, when Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed the measure on May 15, 2019. Those performing abortions would be...more

ALABAMA: Alabama outlawed nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, with exceptions only to protect the mother's health, when Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed the measure on May 15, 2019. Those performing abortions would be committing a felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison, although a woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable. The Republican-controlled Alabama Senate also defeated a Democratic amendment that would have allowed legal abortions for women and girls impregnated by rape and incest. The law, which passed 25-6, will take effect six months after being signed by the governor (pictured), but is certain to face legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry
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ARKANSAS: In March 2019, Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (pictured) signed a law that bans most abortions 18 weeks into a pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies, rape and incest. The state has also passed a law that would ban most abortions in the state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. 

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

ARKANSAS: In March 2019, Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (pictured) signed a law that bans most abortions 18 weeks into a pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies, rape and incest. The state has also passed a law that would ban...more

ARKANSAS: In March 2019, Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (pictured) signed a law that bans most abortions 18 weeks into a pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies, rape and incest. The state has also passed a law that would ban most abortions in the state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
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GEORGIA: Georgia became the fourth U.S. state this year to outlaw abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, with exceptions in cases of rape and incest. Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill on May 7, 2019; it goes into effect on January 1, 2020. The ACLU of Georgia has vowed to sue to stop this law. 

REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

GEORGIA: Georgia became the fourth U.S. state this year to outlaw abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, with exceptions in cases of rape and incest. Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill on May 7, 2019; it goes into effect on...more

GEORGIA: Georgia became the fourth U.S. state this year to outlaw abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, with exceptions in cases of rape and incest. Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill on May 7, 2019; it goes into effect on January 1, 2020. The ACLU of Georgia has vowed to sue to stop this law. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
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IOWA: A state judge permanently struck down Iowa's six-week "heartbeat" bill after finding the law unconstitutional on January 22, 2019, on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds (pictured) had signed the bill into law in May 2018. As yet, that ruling hasn't been appealed, though there are efforts to change the state constitution to make explicit that abortion is not a state-protected right. 

REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

IOWA: A state judge permanently struck down Iowa's six-week "heartbeat" bill after finding the law unconstitutional on January 22, 2019, on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds (pictured)...more

IOWA: A state judge permanently struck down Iowa's six-week "heartbeat" bill after finding the law unconstitutional on January 22, 2019, on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds (pictured) had signed the bill into law in May 2018. As yet, that ruling hasn't been appealed, though there are efforts to change the state constitution to make explicit that abortion is not a state-protected right. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank
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KENTUCKY: Kentucky has also passed a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019, but the ACLU filed an immediate challenge, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. A judge temporarily blocked the law, ruling that it was potentially unconstitutional, and the governor's legal team has said it will appeal the decision.

REUTERS/Chris Kenning

KENTUCKY: Kentucky has also passed a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019, but the ACLU filed an immediate challenge, according to the Louisville...more

KENTUCKY: Kentucky has also passed a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019, but the ACLU filed an immediate challenge, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. A judge temporarily blocked the law, ruling that it was potentially unconstitutional, and the governor's legal team has said it will appeal the decision. REUTERS/Chris Kenning
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LOUISIANA: A ban on abortions after 15 weeks became law in May 2018, but it is currently on hold after a federal judge decided that a similar ban in Mississippi is unconstitutional, according to WBRZ, an ABC-affiliated television station in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana bill, signed by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, would impose a prison sentence of up to two years on the abortion provider but would not result in criminal charges for the woman. On May 6, a bipartisan state Senate voted in favor of a six-week "heartbeat" bill that now moves to the House, WBRZ reported.

REUTERS/David Rae Morris

LOUISIANA: A ban on abortions after 15 weeks became law in May 2018, but it is currently on hold after a federal judge decided that a similar ban in Mississippi is unconstitutional, according to WBRZ, an ABC-affiliated television station in Baton...more

LOUISIANA: A ban on abortions after 15 weeks became law in May 2018, but it is currently on hold after a federal judge decided that a similar ban in Mississippi is unconstitutional, according to WBRZ, an ABC-affiliated television station in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana bill, signed by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, would impose a prison sentence of up to two years on the abortion provider but would not result in criminal charges for the woman. On May 6, a bipartisan state Senate voted in favor of a six-week "heartbeat" bill that now moves to the House, WBRZ reported. REUTERS/David Rae Morris
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MISSISSIPPI: Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (pictured) on March 21, 2019, signed a bill banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It also states that any physician who violates the restriction is subject to losing the license to practice medicine. The law makes exceptions for women whose health is at extreme risk. The bill is due to go into effect on July 1, 2019, but also faces a legal challenge from the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization that seeks to advance reproductive rights. In addition, the state has passed a 15-week abortion ban that was ruled unconstitutional in November 2018 and is currently on appeal before the 5th Circuit Court. 

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

MISSISSIPPI: Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (pictured) on March 21, 2019, signed a bill banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It also states that any physician who violates the restriction is subject to losing the...more

MISSISSIPPI: Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (pictured) on March 21, 2019, signed a bill banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It also states that any physician who violates the restriction is subject to losing the license to practice medicine. The law makes exceptions for women whose health is at extreme risk. The bill is due to go into effect on July 1, 2019, but also faces a legal challenge from the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization that seeks to advance reproductive rights. In addition, the state has passed a 15-week abortion ban that was ruled unconstitutional in November 2018 and is currently on appeal before the 5th Circuit Court. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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MISSOURI: The state's Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill early on May 16 that would ban abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy except in medical emergencies.

"This comprehensive, life-affirming legislation prohibits abortions once a heartbeat has been detected, prohibits abortions when a baby is capable of feeling pain, and would outlaw abortion in Missouri upon the reversal of Roe v. Wade," the Missouri Senate Republicans said in a statement.

Senate Democrats opposed the bill.

The Missouri Stands for the Unborn bill will go back to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for a final approval vote before it can head to Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, to be signed into law. The bill passed the Senate in a 24-10 vote, NBC News reported.

Parson has planned a news conference on Thursday afternoon in support of what he called "one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country."

The bill would not allow an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. It would punish doctors with a prison sentence for carrying out a banned abortion but would not punish women who seek the procedure.

REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

MISSOURI: The state's Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill early on May 16 that would ban abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. "This comprehensive, life-affirming legislation prohibits abortions once a...more

MISSOURI: The state's Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill early on May 16 that would ban abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. "This comprehensive, life-affirming legislation prohibits abortions once a heartbeat has been detected, prohibits abortions when a baby is capable of feeling pain, and would outlaw abortion in Missouri upon the reversal of Roe v. Wade," the Missouri Senate Republicans said in a statement. Senate Democrats opposed the bill. The Missouri Stands for the Unborn bill will go back to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for a final approval vote before it can head to Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, to be signed into law. The bill passed the Senate in a 24-10 vote, NBC News reported. Parson has planned a news conference on Thursday afternoon in support of what he called "one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country." The bill would not allow an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. It would punish doctors with a prison sentence for carrying out a banned abortion but would not punish women who seek the procedure. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
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NORTH CAROLINA: A federal judge ruled in March 2019 that a North Carolina ban on abortions after 20 weeks with only certain exceptions to protect the life of the mother was unconstitutional, NPR (National Public Radio) reported. The law had been on the books since 1973 but had never been enforced. An amendment in 2015 criminalized abortion unless the mother's life was at risk. 

REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

NORTH CAROLINA: A federal judge ruled in March 2019 that a North Carolina ban on abortions after 20 weeks with only certain exceptions to protect the life of the mother was unconstitutional, NPR (National Public Radio) reported. The law had been on...more

NORTH CAROLINA: A federal judge ruled in March 2019 that a North Carolina ban on abortions after 20 weeks with only certain exceptions to protect the life of the mother was unconstitutional, NPR (National Public Radio) reported. The law had been on the books since 1973 but had never been enforced. An amendment in 2015 criminalized abortion unless the mother's life was at risk. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
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NORTH DAKOTA: The state legislature approved a six-week "heartbeat" bill in 2013. When Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law, he called it a "legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade." A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Red River Women's Clinic (pictured), the state's only abortion clinic, leading to a temporary block in July 2013. A federal appeals court permanently blocked the ban in July 2015, and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. 

REUTERS/Dan Koeck

NORTH DAKOTA: The state legislature approved a six-week "heartbeat" bill in 2013. When Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law, he called it a "legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade."...more

NORTH DAKOTA: The state legislature approved a six-week "heartbeat" bill in 2013. When Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law, he called it a "legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade." A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Red River Women's Clinic (pictured), the state's only abortion clinic, leading to a temporary block in July 2013. A federal appeals court permanently blocked the ban in July 2015, and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. REUTERS/Dan Koeck
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OHIO: The state's Republican-controlled legislature has also outlawed abortion if a doctor can detect a heartbeat. The bill includes an exception to save the life of the mother, but no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill was signed by Republican Governor Mike DeWine (pictured R) on April 11, 2019. Former Governor John Kasich twice vetoed similar "heartbeat" bills. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed a suit challenging the law.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

OHIO: The state's Republican-controlled legislature has also outlawed abortion if a doctor can detect a heartbeat. The bill includes an exception to save the life of the mother, but no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill was signed by Republican...more

OHIO: The state's Republican-controlled legislature has also outlawed abortion if a doctor can detect a heartbeat. The bill includes an exception to save the life of the mother, but no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill was signed by Republican Governor Mike DeWine (pictured R) on April 11, 2019. Former Governor John Kasich twice vetoed similar "heartbeat" bills. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed a suit challenging the law. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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UTAH: A law banning most abortions after 18 weeks, with exceptions for rape, fatal fetal deformity or harm to the mother's health, was signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert in March 2019. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged the constitutionality of the law, and an injunction was granted on April 18, 2019, to stop the law from taking effect until the legal challenges had been heard, according to the ACLU. 

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

UTAH: A law banning most abortions after 18 weeks, with exceptions for rape, fatal fetal deformity or harm to the mother's health, was signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert in March 2019. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged the...more

UTAH: A law banning most abortions after 18 weeks, with exceptions for rape, fatal fetal deformity or harm to the mother's health, was signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert in March 2019. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged the constitutionality of the law, and an injunction was granted on April 18, 2019, to stop the law from taking effect until the legal challenges had been heard, according to the ACLU. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
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