Abortion: What's Really Going On?

You must have seen the headlines lately. Abortion. This topic may leave you in a fit of rage, with a burst of passion, or maybe you’re indifferent. Whether it’s right or wrong, however, is not what we’re here to discuss. Many of us may feel in the dark about what’s actually happening with legislation concerning abortion; maybe we don’t keep up with the news or policymaking as much as we should (who really does?). What will really help us become more informed on these developments is a brief and nonpartisan look at what’s going on in the U.S. concerning abortion law.

There are a number of events that took place that influenced modern abortion laws in the United States, but we will only be looking at the one that I believe is most relevant to what’s developing now. 1973 was the year of the Roe vs. Wade decision, which was a landmark Supreme Court decision based on a “right of privacy” that ruled access to safe, legal abortions as a constitutional right. It also established trimester-dependent restrictions.

 

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/planned-parenthood-protest-margaret-sanger-new-york/

Since Roe v. Wade, there has been a constant political conflict between pro-life and pro-choice interests. Soon after the decision, many states began passing laws that were to be loopholes in the system, like the Court’s endorsement of required parental consent and the Hyde Amendment, which prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of most abortions. Going into the 2000’s, state legislators still pushed to create legislation that would undermine the system.

Today, under the Trump administration and with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, many fear that their reproductive rights may be at risk. With abortion in the spotlight, states are preparing for the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Some states are readying legislation to ban abortion immediately if the decision is gutted.

In Tennessee, lawmakers introduced a bill that would effectively prohibit abortion. Called the “Human Life Protection Act,” this bill forbids physicians to perform abortions unless absolutely necessary in order to prevent “[the mother’s] death or substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function or for any reason relating to her mental health.” A violation of this law would result in a Class C Felony.

Legislators in South Carolina have proposed “personhood legislation” in asserting that a person’s life begins at fertilization, and with that, the unborn child cannot be “deprived of life without due process of law nor denied the equal protection of the laws.” With this bill, performing an abortion would also become criminalized, punishable by a felony.

 

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/16/undocumented-pregnant-girl-trump-abortion-texas-243844

 

One state opted to protect reproductive rights in the case that Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Lawmakers in New York recently passed a law on the 46th Anniversary of the Roe decision, the Reproductive Health Act. This law allows abortion through the 24th week of pregnancy if there is “an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” This is possibly the most publicized law of the three I’ve mentioned. President Trump criticized the Reproductive Health Act in his State of the Union address and called on Congress to ban “late-term abortion.”

Currently, there are nine states that protect abortion rights and 18 states that have legislation that could jeopardize them. There are a number of abortion cases with the potential to eventually stand before the Supreme Court, so the future of reproductive rights in the United States still remains uncertain.