Constitutional Law

Six States Ban Abortions After 20th Week, Raising Constitutional Issues

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Six states have passed laws banning abortions after the 20th week of gestation in an apparent conflict with Roe v. Wade, but no one has challenged the legislation in court.

The laws—passed in Nebraska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama—are based on the theory that a fetus can feel pain the 20th week after conception, the New York Times reports.

The 20-week limit conflicts with Roe v. Wade, which holds that abortion cannot be banned until the fetus is viable. Generally viability is thought to be at the 24th week, the story says, citing information from the Guttmacher Institute.

The new laws allow abortions after 20 weeks only if they are needed to prevent the death of the mother, or to prevent “serious physical impairment of a major bodily function” of the mother. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

The story says no suits have been filed challenging the laws, in part because of a lack of potential plaintiffs. Abortion-rights supporters are also fearful about bringing a weak case that could result in new precedent at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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