Naomi Cahn

What Triggers the ‘Trigger Laws’ That Could Ban Abortions?

The Conversation

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations


The Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights dramatically declares that “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

A number of states have already made their choice, either protecting the right to abortion or significantly restricting abortion under most circumstances. Some states never removed bans they had in place before 1973. That’s the year of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade declaring that the Constitution protects the right to obtain an abortion.

In addition, there are 13 states with so-called “trigger” laws, abortion-restricting laws designed to take effect once abortion is no longer protected by the U.S. Constitution. I’m a legal scholar who studies gender and reproductive rights and wanted to see just what those triggers are that will put the laws into force. It turns out that the 13 states are almost evenly split between two distinct approaches with one thing in common: They both end up significantly limiting people’s right to get an abortion.


Naomi R. Cahn, What Triggers the ‘Trigger Laws’ That Could Ban Abortions?, The Conversation (June 7, 2022).