The harms of gestational age abortion bans

Wisconsin lawmakers have proposed a new bill, AB 975, to ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Evidence shows that abortion bans at any point in pregnancy harm pregnant people in need of care.

While the overwhelming majority of abortions in Wisconsin and the greater U.S. take place in the first trimester, people need abortion care later in pregnancy for a number of critical reasons.

For example, research, including by CORE researcher Jenna Nobles, shows that many people experience menstrual irregularity which can delay confirmation of pregnancy.

Other people may recognize a pregnancy earlier on but face many barriers to obtaining abortion, especially financial and logistical barriers due to prohibitive laws. In Wisconsin, pregnant people must navigate multiple hurdles to obtain an abortion – including insurance prohibitions that force people to pay for care out of pocket, a medically unnecessary 24-hour waiting period requiring two clinic visits, and a prohibition on telehealth. These restrictions make it difficult for people to access care quickly or at all – especially for those living far from a clinic and who face challenges with finances, taking time off work, or childcare.

Some pregnant people may be hoping and expecting to give birth and have a healthy baby, but they learn at some point after the first trimester that their health is seriously compromised by the pregnancy or that their fetus has a lethal condition and will not survive. Research documents that gestational bans cause devastating harm to people experiencing maternal or fetal health issues later in pregnancy.

  • Bans deny pregnant people the ability to make a decision that is best for their health, lives, and families.
  • Bans force families into an impossible position: either travel out of state, if they can afford it, or carry the pregnancy to term.
  • Carrying to term may risk the pregnant person’s health, life, or future fertility, or force them to deliver a baby who may not survive long after birth.

A gestational ban in Wisconsin would prevent even more people from obtaining abortion care and undermine their bodily autonomy. Research shows that being denied abortion care harms pregnant people’s physical health, mental health, and ability to reach their life goals. Due to socioeconomic constraints and structural racism, the impact of the bans falls most heavily on people of color and people living on low incomes.

Related CORE resources: