The map below, created by web designer Lewis Lehe, shows abortion rates by state as well as the dizzying patchwork of various state abortion restrictions (note that these are just some of the many state restrictions in place). Select a category tab on the right, and then mouse over each state to see what its restrictions are. In the graph under the map, you can also see the number of abortions in each state per 1,000 women (aged 15 – 44), To compare different states, click on one state and then mouse over (but don’t click) another. Hit the “Compare US Total” button to show the selected state against the national rate.
Note that the ‘viability’ of a fetus is generally considered to start at 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that one in three American women will have had an abortion by the age of 44. That rate is actually closer to 1.7 percent (or 17 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44). It is roughly one in three unintended pregnancies that result in an abortion.
Although Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision, established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, it did little to prevent individual states from enacting their own laws tightening restrictions on the procedure. So while some form of abortion remains legal in all 50 states, it’s a lot more difficult for a woman to get one in certain states over others.
In recent years, anti-abortion campaigns have increasingly geared their efforts towards passing restrictive abortion laws in individual states, rather than at the federal level. In 2013 alone, state legislatures enacted 70 laws restricting abortion access, ranging from bans on abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization to limitations on insurance coverage for the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice advocacy group that tracks state laws. In fact, more abortions restrictions were enacted from 2011 to 2013 than in the entire previous decade.
The issue drew national attention last summer when Texas State Senator Wendy Davis staged a 13-hour filibuster in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to block a new restrictive state abortion law.
Public opinion on the issue remains sharply divided. In a 2013 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 70 percent of respondents said they would not want the Supreme Court to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, as opposed to 24 percent who did. But 58 percent of respondents favored imposing some limits on abortion procedures.
Despite the controversy surrounding the procedure, abortion is still a relatively common experience for a significant number of American women, although the rate has decreased fairly steadily since its peak in 1980, when there were more than 29 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. In 2011, there were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women, according to a recent Guttmacher study. That’s the lowest it’s been since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in all 50 states.
While the study doesn’t specifically investigate reasons for the decline, its authors note that the trend predates the recent wave in new state abortion restrictions. They largely attribute the drop to an uptick in the use of new, long-acting contraceptive methods that have significantly reduced the frequency of unwanted pregnancies.