The current constitutional rule regarding abortion holds that women have the right to choose whether to continue with their pregnancy before a fetus becomes viable. Fetal viability is the point after which a fetus is thought to have a chance of surviving outside a woman’s body, thus giving the government a legitimate state interest in the health and well-being of the fetus separate and apart from the parent. Fetal viability is believed to take place around 23 to 24 weeks.

Forced-birth activists have been incredibly successful at whittling away a pregnant woman’s right to bodily autonomy before fetal viability. And they’ve been incredibly successful at making it hard for women to access their rights—with the help of abortion providers and drugs—during the brief window many states will still allow them to have any. But fetal viability is more or less the legal line in the sand and has been since the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Before her fetus reaches viability, a pregnant woman is to be treated as a fully formed human being. After viability, Republican-controlled states are allowed to treat her as a malfunctioning incubator who can be forced to serve the state’s alleged interests against her free will.

Read the rest of Elie Mystal’s piece in The Nation