State legislatures are adopting numerous abortion restrictions targeting very specific pregnancy conditions and populations of women. In recent years, members of Congress have introduced federal legislation that would prohibit abortions based on the sex or race of the fetus.
Sex-selective abortions—that is, abortions performed because of the predicted sex of the fetus—occur most frequently where there is a strong gender bias that manifests in a preference for sons. In some countries, such as those in East and South Asia, the widespread practice of sex selection has resulted in skewed sex ratios with a higher number of boys than girls at birth. In contrast, in the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from these areas—or anywhere else—are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country. Bans on sex-selective abortions place a burden on providers, who are forced to not only question all women’s reasons for seeking an abortion, but to also second-guess and stigmatize Asian-American women and communities. While disguised as a means to eliminate gender discrimination, these laws make abortion less accessible; they do not prohibit other sex selection methods, such as sperm sorting or preimplantation genetic diagnostics.
Arizona enacted legislation that prohibits a woman from aborting her fetus due to race, thereby focusing on the race of the woman having an abortion and placing the provider in a position of having to question her motivations. Antiabortion legislators and activists claim that abortion providers are targeting Latina and African-American women in their communities, relying on statistics showing that these women of color have higher rates of abortions than white women. In fact, six in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods. Moreover, data show that women of color face higher rates of unintended pregnancies, which leads to higher rates of abortion (See Abortion and Women of Color: The Bigger Picture).
In 2013, North Dakota was the first state to prohibit abortions in cases of fetal abnormality, even in cases where the fetus has a condition that is incompatible with life and will die before or soon after birth. Multiple states have implemented counseling requirements for women undergoing abortion to include information on perinatal hospice services.
11 states ban abortions for reason of sex selection at some point in pregnancy.
4 states prohibit abortions for reasons of race.
4 states prohibit abortions when the fetus may have a genetic anomaly.
3 states require counseling on perinatal hospice services available before a woman may undergo an abortion if it may be due to a lethal fetal condition.
Kansas requires counseling on perinatal hospice services before any abortion may be performed.
Monthly State Policy Updates
Get an overview of state legislative and policy activity in all topics of sexual and reproductive health.