Roe v Wade: What Are 'Trigger Laws' & Which States in the US Already Have Them?

If Roe is overturned, state legislatures would be permitted to individually determine the legality of abortion.

3 min read
Edited By :Saundarya Talwar

(This was first published on 3 May 2022. It has been republished from The Quint's archives over US Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade)

Amid the huge controversy surrounding the potential overruling of Roe v Wade, an important to thing to remember is that if the US Supreme Court does overrule the 1973 case, it will not ban abortions across the country.

Rather, it will reverse the blanket ban that was imposed on restrictions on abortions by the apex court in 1973 in its judgment of the case.

So, what happens if, fifty years since the blanket ban on abortion bans, Roe is overturned?

Due to the powers that states possess, their legislatures would be able to individually determine the legality of abortion within their territory.

Certain state legislatures have passed what is known as "trigger laws", which are laws that are unenforceable in the present but may become enforceable in the future if there is a change in the situation.

There are 13 such states, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post.


In Arkansas, a trigger law is all set to ban almost all abortions, with an exception for saving the “life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.”

A person can go up to 10 years in prison or a pay a $100,000 fine in Oklahoma for getting or aiding an abortion unless it would save the life of a pregnant woman.

In Idaho, whoever provides an abortion will get five years of jail time. Exemptions include preventing a pregnant woman from dying, or if it is a case of rape or incest.

In Louisiana and South Dakota, the law bans anyone performing an abortion or providing a woman with the drugs that could induce one.

In Texas, a law would ban abortions 30 days after Roe is overturned. Such is also the case with Tennessee.

Similarly, in Utah and Wyoming, unless to prevent death or serious injury, or in case of rape or incest, the law would ban abortions after the overrule of Roe.

The state of Kentucky has made abortions a felony since 2019 unless it is to prevent death or injury to the pregnant woman.

In Missouri, abortions are a felony unless it's a medical emergency. North Dakota's law against abortions is similar to Missouri's.

And in Mississippi, the attorney general can enforce a ban on abortions after Roe is overturned.

States That are Likely to Ban Abortion

An additional four states are also likely to ban abortion as soon as possible without federal protections in place, as per Guttmacher Institute.

Florida: The state legislature tried to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy in 2021. An effort to adopt the Texas-style six-week ban was also publicized. However, in April 2022, a 15-week abortion ban was enacted, which will go into effect in July.

Indiana: The legislature has enacted 55 abortion restrictions and bans in the past decade. This could lead to a comprehensive ban.

Montana: New abortion restrictions were enacted in Montana in 2021. These included restrictions on medication abortion and abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, due to a court order, these restrictions can't currently be enforced.

Nebraska: The state was the first to adopt a 22-week ban in 2010. In 2020, Nebraska enacted a ban on the standard method for abortion after 15 weeks.

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Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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