News Release

What Are the Exceptions to State Abortion Bans?

KFF Reviews Exceptions to State Abortion Bans and Key Issues for Access and Health

A new KFF analysis reviews exceptions to abortion bans and describes how the stated aim to provide life-saving and health-preserving abortion care may not be achieved in practice. Abortion is currently banned in 14 states and many other states have attempted to ban or severely restrict abortion access. Exceptions to state abortion bans generally fall into four general categories: to prevent the death of the pregnant person, when there is risk to the health of the pregnant person, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, and when there is a lethal fetal anomaly.

  • While the state bans and restrictions include life or health exceptions, the vagueness of the language describing them can effectively restrict the ability of clinicians to exercise their own medical judgement based on their expertise and accepted standards of care.
  • Abortion bans and restrictions have led physicians to delay providing miscarriage management care. 
  • Mental health exceptions are rare even though 20% of pregnancy-related deaths are attributable to mental health conditions. 
  • Few state abortion bans contain exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and law enforcement involvement is often required to document the sexual assault. 
  • In states where there is more than one abortion ban, the exceptions can be at odds with each other, creating confusion among patients and providers.  

Read the brief, “A Review of Exceptions in State Abortions Bans: Implications for the Provision of Abortion Services” to learn more about how exceptions to abortion bans impact access to abortion care for people across the United States.

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