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TO: Interested Parties
DATE: Wednesday, February 11, 2015
MEMO: States move on 20-week abortion bans


While rumors continue in Congress about the re-introduction of a dangerous 20-week abortion ban, state legislatures across the country are moving similar restrictions as part of a coordinated campaign to ban abortion. Since 2010, 13 states have enacted bans on abortion at or before 20 weeks. Last week, similar bans in West Virginia and South Carolina passed out of legislative committees, while in Virginia, a proposed ban was tabled due to concerns about its constitutionality. Every time these bans have been litigated, they have been enjoined, including in Arizona, Idaho, and Georgia.

In the 42 years since the Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes her right to abortion, the procedure has become, and remains, one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, with studies showing that three in ten women have had a safe, legal abortion at some point in their lifetime. Advances in women’s health have paved the way for women to be a driving force in our economy, and access to reproductive health care is directly related to women’s ability to finish school and succeed professionally. In particular, improved access to a full range of birth control services has resulted in a 40-year low in teen pregnancy and abortion rates.

And yet — last month politicians in Congress caused a firestorm over an unconstitutional bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks. When Republican leadership couldn't get party consensus, they instead introduced and passed another bill that undermines a woman’s ability to make personal health care decisions. This, and the 20-week bans continuing to advance across the country, is on top of the more than 335 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion that were introduced in state legislatures in 2014. It’s no wonder therecent report from the Guttmacher Institute found that more than half (57%) of women of reproductive age are now living in a state that is either hostile or very hostile to abortion rights.

When Americans understand the real-world impact of 20-week bans, a solid 60 percent of voters oppose them. A strong majority of voters — Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (78 percent), and Independents (71 percent) — say this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on. Another poll in four battleground states shows that when this notion of personal morality was considered, 78 percent of voters held the position that the government should not restrict abortion access.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Instead of advancing an extreme agenda ultimately designed to end access to abortion, Congress and state legislatures should be focused on policies that move women and families forward.  At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is making sure that every woman, no matter where she lives, can make her own personal, private health care decisions without interference from politicians. We’ll continue to fight these attacks on women’s health wherever they arise, and continue to urge elected officials across the country to focus on the issues important to their communities, rather than deeply unpopular attacks on women’s access to health care.”  

Additional facts:

  • Data, including from the CDC, shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. And studies show women experience complications less than one percent of the time.
  • Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks. Often, abortions later in pregnancy involve rare, severe fetal abnormalities and serious risks to the woman’s health.
  • Doctors oppose these laws because they prevent them from giving their patients the best health care possible in an individual situation.
  • We’ve seen what happens when politicians interfere in these deeply personal medical decisions and tie doctors’ hands. In states that have passed laws like this, some women and their families have been put into unimaginable situations — needing to end a pregnancy for serious medical reasons, but unable to do so.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433


February 11, 2015