The Pennsylvania Senate has passed a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks, which would make the state's law one of the strictest in the country.

The controversial measure, and similar bills in other states, have sparked much debate about abortion rights and restrictions in recent months. Here's a guide to what's happening with abortion laws in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.


What the state's current law does: Abortion is now banned at 24 weeks in Pennsylvania.

What just happened in Pennsylvania: The state Senate approved, largely along partisan lines, a bill that would bar abortion at 20 weeks, except in the case of medical emergencies. The bill would also curtail the procedure known as dilation and evacuation, often used in second-trimester abortions. The vote by the full Senate follows approval earlier this week by the body's Judiciary Committee.

What's next: The bill now heads to the state House, which is also controlled by Republicans. Gov. Wolf has pledged to veto the measure, but there could be enough votes in the legislature for an override.

How the bill compares to other states: Sixteen states have similar 20-week bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights. Those laws have varying exceptions.

What the latest bill says: Here is the text of the last abortion measure introduced in Pennsylvania.

What happened when the Pennsylvania legislature last took up a 20-week ban: A bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks except in medical emergencies passed the state House in June. The law also would have curtailed the procedure known as dilation and evacuation, used in second-trimester abortions. Then, in July, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill. The full Senate, however, did not vote on the bill before the end of legislative session.

What the discussion around the Pennsylvania measure has been like: Last year's bill was highly contentious, generating hours of heated debate in Harrisburg. John Eichelberger, a Republican state senator, said it was meant "to protect the lives of babies." A Democratic state senator, Lisa Boscola, called it an "election-year gimmick." The president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society wrote to lawmakers that it "sets a dangerous precedent." Others, including politicians on both sides of aisle and advocacy groups, also weighed in.

The latest measure has been similarly divisive. Boscola called it a "cookie-cutter approach when it comes to patient complications." Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, a Republican, argues that "we have children who are being aborted who are viable."

Why there's movement now: The November election somewhat bolstered the Republican-controlled legislature's ability to override a Wolf veto: Senate Republicans have a super majority that could override a veto without any Democratic votes, while Republicans in the House increased their majority but did not reach super majority status. Republicans nationwide are encouraged by Donald Trump's presidential win and the types of justices Trump has said he would appoint to the Supreme Court. GOP lawmakers believe restrictions on abortion could be upheld by a more conservative court.

New Jersey

What current law says: The state does not have a ban on late-term abortions.

What's happening in New Jersey: Republican lawmakers in New Jersey introduced a 20-week abortion ban this spring and, energized by Trump's presidential win, held a news conference in December to draw attention to the measure. That bill, however, is unlikely to see movement in New Jersey's Democrat-controlled legislature.

What the latest bill says: Here is the text of the last abortion measure introduced in New Jersey.


What happened in Ohio last year: Debate on abortion laws erupted in December when Ohio lawmakers passed two bills that severely restricted abortions. One would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The other, the so-called "heartbeat bill," would bar abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. Neither bill has an exception for rape or incest. Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the 20-week ban.

How the Ohio bills compared to laws elsewhere: More than a dozen states have 20-week laws, but the heartbill laws are not common. Arkansas and North Dakota both passed similar heartbeat bills, but the laws were struck down by federal courts. 

Other recent abortion measures: There has been a flurry of abortion-related legislative activity in late 2016 and early 2017. Kentucky recently instituted a 20-week ban and a law requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound and show and describe the images the woman. Legislators in Virginia and Florida have also renewed efforts to pass 20-week bans. In Arkansas, a new law bans dilation and evacuation.

Legal status: The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states can restrict abortion after the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is generally considered to be around 24 to 26 weeks gestation. 

Data on abortions after 20 weeks: The procedures that would be banned by the 20-week bills are rare. In Pennsylvania, for instance, just 380 of the 31,818 abortions performed in 2015, the latest year for which state Health Department figures were available, occurred after 20 weeks. In Ohio, just 145 abortions were performed after 20 weeks that year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.