mother’s health. It allowed states to ban abortion during the third trimester, except when the mother’s life or health was in danger. This decision unleashed a storm of protest. Since Roe v. Wade , there have been more than 55 million legal abortions in the United States. Abortion is a common experience: about one fifth of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. At current rates, about 1 in 4 American women will have had an abortion by the time they reach age 45. Moreover, a broad cross section has abortions. More than half of women having abortions are in their twenties; 59 percent have one or more children; 46 percent have never married; 49 percent have incomes below the federal poverty level; and 62 percent report a religious affiliation. No racial or ethnic group makes up a majority: 39 percent of women obtaining abortions are white non-Hispanic, 28 percent are black non-Hispanic, 25 percent are Hispanic, and 9 percent are of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. 143 The furor over Roe has never subsided. Congress has passed numerous statutes forbidding the use of federal funds for abortions. Many states have passed similar restrictions. For example, Missouri forbade the use of state funds or state employees to perform abortions. The Supreme Court upheld this law in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989). In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey , the Court changed its standard for evaluating restrictions on abortion from one of “strict scrutiny” of any restraints on a “fundamental right” to one of “undue burden,” which permits considerably more regulation. The Court upheld a 24-hour waiting period, a parental or judicial consent requirement for minors, and a requirement that doctors present women with information on the risks of the operation. The Court struck down a provision requiring a married woman to tell her husband of her intent to have an abortion; however, the majority of the justices also affirmed their commitment to the basic right to abortion. One area of controversy has involved a procedure termed by its opponents as “partial birth” abortion. In 2003 Congress passed a law banning partial birth abortions, providing an exception to the ban in order to save the life of a mother but no exception to preserve a mother’s health, on the grounds that the procedure was never necessary for a woman’s health. In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the Supreme Court upheld that law, finding it was specific and did not subject women to significant health risks or impose an undue burden on women. The Court also took pains to point out that the law would not affect most abortions, which are performed early in a pregnancy, and that safe alternatives to the prohibited procedure are available.
Abortion is perhaps the nation’s most divisive issue, raising strong emotions on both sides of the debate. Here pro-life activists pray across the street from the Washington, D.C., offices of Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides reproductive services, health care, and abortions to many low-income women.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 116 pages?
- Summer '16
- Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution