Background

Every state requires that a patient consent before undergoing medical treatment and that the consent be “informed.” Three interrelated elements underlie the long-standing tradition of informed consent: Patients must possess the capacity to make decisions about their care; their participation in these decisions must be voluntary; and they must be provided adequate and appropriate information. However, abortion counseling requirements sometimes run afoul of these principles by requiring information that is irrelevant or misleading.

In addition to abortion counseling requirements, many states require that at least 24 hours elapse between the counseling and the abortion. In states in which the counseling must be obtained in person (rather than via mail, fax, Internet or phone) and the woman must then wait a specified time period, most often 24 hours, between the counseling and the procedure, the woman is effectively required to make two trips to the health care provider in order to obtain an abortion, a requirement that could constitute a hardship for some women. Moreover, several states also mandate when and how an ultrasound is performed prior to an abortion (see Requirements for Ultrasound).

Highlights

Abortion Counseling & Waiting Periods

STATE

Length of Waiting Period

(in hours)

In-Person Counseling Necessitates Two Trips to Clinic

Written Materials Given or Offered

Woman Informed that Abortion  Cannot Be Coerced

Description of

Procedure

Fetal Development

Ability of   a Fetus to Feel Pain

Personhood Begins at Conception

Specific

All Common

Gestational Age of Fetus

Throughout Pregnancy

States with Detailed Abortion-Specific

Informed Consent Requirements (29 states)

Alabama

48

 

Given

V,W

V

W

V

W

 

 

Alaska

 

 

Offered

 

V

W

V

W

    W*

 

Arizona

24

X

Offered

V,W

V

W

V

W

 

 

Arkansas

48

X

Offered

V,W

V

W

V

W

V†​,W

 

Florida

Offered

 

V

 

V

W

 

 

Georgia

24

 

Offered

 

 

W

V

W

W

 

Idaho

24

 

Given

W

V

W

 

W

 

 

Indiana

18

X

Given

 

V

W

V

W

V‡​​

V

Iowa

§​

§​

Offered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas

24

 

Given

W

V

W

V

W

W

W

KentuckyЭ

24

X

Offered

 

V

 

V

W

 

 

Louisiana

24§​​

X

Given

W

V

W

V

W

V,W

 

Massachusetts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michigan

24

 

Given

 

V,W

 

V,W

W

 

 

Minnesota

24

 

Offered

 

 

W

V

W

V,W

 

Mississippi

24

X

Offered

 

V

 

V

W

 

 

Missouri

72

X

Given

W

V,W

W

V,W

W

   W†​

W

Montana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nebraska

24

 

Offered

 

 

W

V

W

 

 

North Carolina

72

 

Offered

 V

V

W

V

W

 

 

North Dakota

24

 

Offered

W

 

W

V

W

 

V

Ohio

24

X

Given

 

V

 

V

W

 

 

Oklahoma

72

 

Offered

 

 V 

W

V

W

V,W

W

Pennsylvania

24

 

Offered

W

V

W

V

W

 

 

South Carolina

24

 

Offered

 

V

W

V

W

 

 

South Dakota

72Ω​

X

Given

V

 

W

V

W

    W*

W

TennesseeΨ​

48

X

 

 

 

 

V

 

 

 

Texas

24

 Xξ​​

Offered

W*

 

    W*

V

W

    W*

 

UtahЭ

72

  XЭ​​

Given

W

V

W

V

W

V†​,W

 

Virginia

24

Xξ​​

Offered

 

V

W

V

W

 

 

West Virginia

24

 

Offered

    W*

 

W

V

W

 

 

Wisconsin

24

X

Given

V,W

V

W

V

W

W*

 

States with Customary Informed

Consent Provisions (4 states)

Connecticut

 

 

 

 

V

 

V

 

 

 

Maine

 

 

 

 

V

 

V

 

 

 

Nevada

 

 

 

 

V

 

V

 

 

 

Rhode Island

 

 

 

 

V

 

V

 

 

 

TOTAL

27

14

29

15

25

23

32

28

13

6

All states waive mandatory waiting period requirements in a medical emergency or when the woman's life or health is threatened. In Utah, the counseling is waived if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the patient is younger than 15. In Alabama, the counseling requirement is waived in cases of ectopic pregnancy or severe fetal impairment and in Georgia and Rhode Island it is waived in cases of medical emergency.
 
 
▼ Enforcement permanently enjoined by court order; policy not in effect.
§   Law is temporarily enjoined, policy is not in effect. (In Louisiana, enforcement of the 72-hour waiting period is blocked, the 24-hour waiting period remains in effect.)
V= verbal counseling;  W= written materials
*   Included in written counseling materials although not specifically mandated by state law.
†   Information given only to women who are at 20 weeks of pregnancy or more; in Missouri the law applies at 22 weeks of pregnancy and in Utah a physician may waive the requirement if the abortion is because of rape, incest, life endangerment, a severe health problem or if the fetus has a lethal condition.
‡   In Indiana, the provision is not enforced against Planned Parenthood of Indiana due to a court case.
Ω  The law prohibits the inclusion of weekends and annual state holidays as part of the waiting period.
Ψ  Enforcement of a provision of the Tennessee law requiring that a woman be told that an abortion constitutes major surgery is enjoined.
ξ   In person counseling is not required for women who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider.
Э  In Kentucky, a woman may be able to use telemedicine for abortion counseling. In Utah, a woman may obtain abortion counseling in person at any medical office in the state.

 

 

Abortion Counseling & Waiting Periods

STATE

INACCURATE INFORMATION ON REVERSING MEDICATION ABORTION

COUNSELING ON HEALTH RISKS OF ABORTION

COUNSELING ON HEALTH RISKS OF PREGNANCY

 

Future Fertility

Breast Cancer

Mental Health

 

Accurately Portrays Risk

Inaccurately Portrays Risk

Correctly Reports No Link

Inaccurately  Asserts  Possible Link

Correctly Reports Range of Emotional Responses

Describes Negative Emotional Responses

States with Detailed Abortion-Specific

Informed Consent Requirements (30 states)

Alabama

 

 

 

 

 

W†​

 

W

Alaska

 

W

 

 

W†​

W

 

W

Arizona

 

 

W†​

 

 

W

 

V

Arkansas

X

W†​

 

 

 

W

 

V,W

Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

Georgia

 

W†​

 

 

 

W

 

V,W

Idaho

V

 

 

 

W†​

 

V,W†​

Indiana

 

V, W

 

 

 

 

 

V,W

Kansas

 

 

W†​

 

W

 

W

V,W

Kentucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

Louisiana

 

W†​

 

 

 

 

W

V,W

Michigan

 

W

 

 

 

 

W

V,W

Minnesota

 

V,W†​

 

V,W†​

 

W

 

V,W

Mississippi

 

V,W

 

V

W†​

 

 

V,W

Missouri

 

V

 

 

 

V,W

 

 

Nebraska

 

V,W†​

 

 

 

 

W

V,W

North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

W

V

North Dakota

 

V

 

 

 

 

 

V

Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

Oklahoma

 

W†​

 

 

W†​

W

 

V,W

Pennsylvania

 

W†​

 

 

 

W

 

V,W

South Carolina

 

W†​

 

 

 

W

 

W

South Dakota

 X

V

W†​

 

 

 

W

V,W†​

Tennessee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

Texas

 

V

W

V

W

 

W†​

V,W

Utah

  X 

W

 

 

 

 W

 

V,W

Virginia

 

W

 

 

 

W

 

W

West Virginia

 

V

 

 

 

 

W

V,W

Wisconsin

 

V,W

 

 

 

V,W

 

V,W

States with Customary Informed

Consent Provisions (2 states)

Maine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

Nevada

 

 

 

 

 

Ф

 

 

TOTAL

4

21

4

3

5

14

8

29

V= verbal counseling;  W= written materials


  Enforcement permanently enjoined by court order; policy not in effect.
   Included in written counseling materials although not specified by state law.
    Law specifically requires the provider to inform in writing a woman seeking an abortion that depression and suicide ideation are risks of the abortion.
Ф   Law requires discussion of emotional impact of abortion.