This week, the Oklahoma legislature enacted one of the most "restrictive" abortion laws in America. Though the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade bars an outright ban on abortion, states have found countless ways to control the rate of terminated pregnancies. Here are some of the strictest abortion bills ever passed — and a few proposals that proved too controversial to become (or remain) legal:
The state's new measures require doctors to show a woman an ultrasound of her fetus and to describe its physical characteristics in detail — even if she was impregnated through rape or incest. The new laws also protect doctors from being sued for declining to tell a women that her baby will have birth defects. (Both Florida and Louisiana are considering similar "informed consent" laws.) Another Oklahoma law requiring doctors to publically register any female citizen who'd had an abortion was struck down as unconstitutional this March.
In April, the state mandated a ban on abortions at or beyond 20 weeks of gestation, on the basis that fetuses feel pain. Though critics dismiss that argument, right-to-life activists call the law a milestone victory. Although the law is set to take effect in October, it violates the Supreme Court's ruling on "fetal viability" and faces a lengthy legal battle, a fight that some say could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In April, Governor Mark Parkinson vetoed a law that would allow a woman's family members to sue any doctor who gave her an abortion without her consent. The law would also have restricted women's freedom to seek late-term abortions. Parkinson says the state's existing laws already strike a "reasonable balance," but pro-life advocate Troy Newman said the veto would "cause Kansas to re-assume the title as the late-term abortion capital."
In the early 2000s, the state passed a raft of laws that made it nearly impossible for abortion providers to set up shop in Louisiana. Not only did the state pass a "civil liability law" allowing women who regretted their abortions to sue their doctor for unlimited sums, lawmakers mandated strict building codes for abortion clinics regulating everything from door sizes to the "angle and jet types for drinking fountains." These laws are no longer on the statute books.
The Midwestern state attempted to ban abortions outright in 2006, but public outrage and the prospect of a costly Supreme Court battle derailed the effort. Even so, South Dakota's attempts to limit abortions continue. Last year, a federal judge struck down a state bill that would have required doctors to tell women that abortions could increase the risk of suicide.