Mandatory Delays and Biased Counseling for Women Seeking Abortions

Biased counseling laws, on the books in many states, require woman seeking an abortion to receive information dictated by the state prior to undergoing the procedure. The information is designed to persuade women to carry their pregnancies to term, and it generally includes descriptions of fetal development, adoption programs, and state laws requiring fathers to pay child support. In some states, this information must be provided to the woman orally, often by the physician, and in other states the information is contained in written materials prepared by the state.

Mandatory delay laws require women to wait for a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, after receiving the information required by biased counseling laws before she can undergo an abortion. Thirty-two states have some variation of a biased counseling law on the books. You can review a state-by-state breakdown of these restrictions at the bottom of this page.

Mandatory delay and biased counseling laws harm women:

  • Some mandatory delay laws force women to travel multiple times to their abortion provider: once to receive the state-mandated information, and once, later, to actually undergo the abortion. This extra trip (and the accompanying needs for travel expenses, childcare, and time away from work and family) can pose real obstacles, particularly for low-income women, women who live in rural areas, and women in abusive relationships. Those obstacles can themselves force women to delay their procedures even further into pregnancy, and although early abortion is a very safe procedure, the risk of complications increases with gestational age.
  • The information required by biased counseling laws is often misleading and/or based on faulty science. For example, some states' written materials claim that abortion may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, despite the fact that the National Cancer Institute has concluded that no such link exists. Similarly, some state materials discuss only the "negative" emotions a woman might experience after an abortion, entirely omitting the relief experienced by many women who have abortions, and ignoring the conclusion of the American Psychological Association that a legal first-trimester abortion poses no greater risk of mental health problems to a woman than does carrying a pregnancy to term.
  • Biased counseling laws force physicians to communicate, and women to receive, state messages aimed at influencing the women's decisions about whether to continue or terminate their pregnancies. This insertion of the state into the communications between physician and patient intrudes on a woman's autonomy and dignity; interferes with the physician’s professional practice; and corrupts the informed consent process.

CRR has worked to combat these harms by challenging biased counseling and mandatory delay laws in court. Unfortunately, the courts have generally minimized the burdens these laws impose on women and upheld them against constitutional challenges.

To read about CRR's current legal challenges to biased counseling laws, click the links below:

To learn more about the biased counseling laws on the books across the country, review the state-specific chart below:

STATES WITH BIASED COUNSELING LAWS

STATE

BIASED COUNSELING

MANDATORY DELAY (length in hours)

WOMAN MUST MAKE TWO TRIPS: ONCE FOR ABORTION COUNSELING AND ANOTHER FOR THE APPOINTMENT

RELEVANT STATATORY PROVISION/CASE LAW

Alabama

Y

24

YAla. Code 1975 § 26-23A-4 (2002).

Alaska

Y

Alaska Admin. Code tit. 12, § 40.070 (2004).

Arizona

Y

24

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-2153 (2009.

Arkansas

Y

Prior day

Ark. Code Ann. §§ 20-16-903 to 20-16-904 (Enacted in 2001, Amended 2005).

Delaware

Y

Enforcement enjoined by court order.

Del. Code Ann. tit. 24, § 1794 (1979), 24 hour mandatory delay enjoined by Planned Parenthood of Del. v. Brady, 03-153-SLR (D. Del. June 9, 2003) (opinion and order).

Florida

Y

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 390.0111(3) (Enacted 1979; Last Amended 1998).

Georgia

Y

24

Ga. Code Ann. §§ 31-9A-3 to 31-9A-4 (2005).

Idaho

Y

24

Idaho Code Ann. § 18-609 (Enacted 1995, Amended 2007).

Indiana

Y

18

Y

Ind. Code Ann. § 16-34-2-1.1 (Enacted 1995, Amended 2008).

Kansas

Y

24

Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 65-6709 to 65-6710 (1997).

Kentucky

Y

24

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 311.725 (1998).

Louisiana

Y

24

Y

La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:1299.35.6 (Enacted 1978, Amended 1995).

Massachusetts

Y

Enforcement enjoined by court order

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 112, § 12S, 24 mandatory delay enjoined by Planned Parenthood League of Mass., Inc. v. Bellotti, No. 80-1166-MA (D. Mass. Nov. 4, 1987)

Michigan

Y

24

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 333.17015 (Enacted 1993, Amended 2006).

Minnesota

Y

24

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 145.4242 (Enacted 2003, Amended 2006) - Minn. Stat. Ann. § 145.4243 (2003).

Mississippi

Y

24

Y

Miss. Code Ann. §§ 41-41-33, 41-41-35 (Enacted 1991, Amended 1996).

Missouri

Y

24

Y

Mo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 188.039 (Enacted 1979, Amended 2010).

Montana

Y

Enforcement enjoined by court order

Mont. Code Ann. § 50-20-106 (Enacted 1974; Last Amended 1995); enjoined by Planned Parenthood of Missoula v. State, No. BDV-95-722 (Mont. Dist. Ct. Dec. 29, 1999).

Nebraska

Y

24

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-327 (Enacted 1993, Amended 2010) - § 28-327.01 (Enacted 1993, Amended 1996).

North Dakota

Y

24

N.D. Cent. Code § 14-02.1-02 (Enacted 1975, Amended 2009) - § 14-02.1-02.1 (Enacted 1975, Amended 2001).

Ohio

Y

24

Y

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2317.56 (Enacted 1991, Amended 1998).

Oklahoma

Y

24

Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 63, §§ 1-738.2 to 1-738.3 (Enacted 2005, Amended 2006), Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 63 § 1-738.8 (2006)

Pennsylvania

Y

24

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 3205, 3208 (Enacted 1982, Amended 1989).

Rhode Island

Y

South Carolina

Y

24

S.C. Code Ann. §44-41-330 (amended in June 2010 by H.B. 3245 to provide for twenty-four hour waiting period), S.C. Code Ann. § 4441-340 (1995).

South Dakota

Y

24

S.D. Codified Laws § 34-23A-10.1 (Enacted 1980, Amended 2005) (other provisions of the statute held unconstitutional)

Tennessee

Y

Enforcement enjoined by court order.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15- 202(d)(1) (1989), enjoined in Planned Parenthood of Middle Tenn. v. Sundquist, 38 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2000).

Texas

Y

24


Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §171.012 (2003).

Utah

Y

24

Y

Utah Code Ann. § 76-7-305(2)(a) (Enacted 1973, Repealed and Reenacted 1974, Amended 2010).

Virginia

Y

24

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-76 (Enacted 1997, Amended 2003).

West Virginia

Y

24

W. VA. Code Ann. §§ 16-2I-1 to 16-21-3 (2003).

Wisconsin

Y

24

Y

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 253.10 (1985).

Total

32

29

7