How Late In A Pregnancy Is It Legal To Get An Abortion? It Depends Where You Live
When Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton faced off during the final presidential debate, a contentious question came up, and the public's debate about their answers has raged on ever since. Was Trump's depiction of late-term abortion accurate? Was Clinton's defense of the act reasonable? Actually, is late-term abortion even legal? And how late in a pregnancy is it legal to get an abortion, anyway?
First of all, it's important to note that "late-term abortion" isn't exactly a scientific term, nor does it have exact parameters — but it's typically intended to mean any abortion that takes place after 20 weeks of gestation, although a fetus is usually viable around 24 weeks into a pregnancy, according to Mother Jones. And the question of when an abortion becomes illegal depends on a couple of things: specifically, when, where, and why a woman gets an abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 43 states prohibit abortions after a certain point in pregnancies. In 19 states, abortions become illegal at the point of fetal viability (when exactly this happens is decided on a case-to-case basis, but typically takes place around 22 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy, according to The Atlantic). Three states impose restrictions in the third trimester. Twenty-two states restrict abortions after 18 to 25 weeks. Only seven states have no restrictions on abortions (not to be confused with "partial birth" abortions, or intact dilation and evacuation procedures, which only make up approximately 0.2 percent of abortions and are illegal unless the mother's life is at risk).
Now, here's the catch. While Roe v. Wade allows states to place restrictions on abortions, they're only allowed to do so if they provide exceptions in cases where a mother's life or health (both physical and mental) is in danger, and states are not allowed to require that a second physician be consulted in order to allow an abortion. So, if a woman's health or life is in danger, an abortion should be legal at any point during a pregnancy — however, several states have placed unconstitutional limits on abortion, as well, allowing them only in cases where a mother's life is endangered and requiring secondary medical opinions before allowing the abortion to go through.
Bills such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act would see all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation prohibited, except in cases where a mother's life is at risk or in situations where rape or incest were involved. To learn more about a specific state's restrictions, take a look at The Atlantic's state-by-state breakdown to see what abortion laws currently look like across the country.