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Abortion: How Much Do You Know? (Question 1)

Is abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy?

Yes. On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court enacted Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, two decisions that decriminalized abortion, making it a “choice” to be discussed between a woman and her doctor.  In Roe, the Court established a trimester system defining parameters within which states could limit abortion. States could not restrict abortion at all during the first three months of pregnancy. States were permitted to apply some restrictions (i.e., licensing of doctors and health facilities, health codes, etc.) from the end of the third month up to the point of viability. The Court permitted states to outlaw abortions from viability until birth, except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

It sounds like Roe made it possible for a state to outlaw late-term abortions, but that’s not the case. The same day as Roe, another case, Doe v. Bolton, defined “health of the mother” to include all factors-physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age. Because the court defined health so loosely, a woman can have an abortion for any reason and at any time during her pregnancy.

Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton supersede all state laws, allowing a woman to legally obtain an abortion for any reason throughout all nine months.