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40 years later, abortion rights still contested in U.S.

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Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling guaranteeing abortion rights under the Constitution, the decision is increasingly contested by opponents seeking to restrict access.

The delicate question over whether a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy -- and thus, critics argue, end a life -- has long caused deep and bitter divisions in the very fabric of American society, including several deadly incidents.

In what has become a yearly ritual, tens of thousands of pro-life activists will mark the anniversary of the Jan 22, 1973 "Roe v. Wade" ruling by marching in front of the Supreme Court.

This year's March for Life will take place three days later, on Friday, due to festivities surrounding President Barack Obama's inauguration to a second term on Monday.

The pro-choice movement, advocating for abortion rights, will organize local meetings, diners and conferences to mark the anniversary.

Polls lay bare the stark divide between the pro-life and pro-choice camps.

A Pew poll showed that more than six out of 10 Americans would not like to see the high court overturn Roe v. Wade, against 29% who would like to see it struck down -- opinions that have not shifted much since surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.

The latest survey, released Wednesday, also found that 53% of respondents said abortion was "not that important compared to other issues," an increase from 48% in 2009 and 32% in 2006.

And the ratio of those seeing abortion as a "critical issue facing the country" dropped from 28% in 2006 to 15% in 2009 and 18% today.

But abortion remains a heated political topic that can trigger the rise -- or downfall -- of conservative politicians in particular.

A flurry of abortion-related laws have nonetheless been passed at the state level, usually advanced by the powerful pro-life lobby and fought by the pro-choicers.

In May, Gallup said there had never been so few pro-choice supporters -- at 41% (against 56% in 1995) -- while 50% said they were pro-life (compared to 33% 16 years ago).

The anti-abortion activists "realize they can't really change the Supreme Court decision. They are not going to get an amendment to the Constitution, so they have adopted an incremental approach, state by state," said James Kelly, professor emeritus of sociology at Fordham University.

The Guttmacher Institute on sexual and reproductive health counted a record number of 92 abortion-related laws passed in 2011, and 43 in 2012.

They range across a wide spectrum, from measures limiting late-stage abortions to barring health care insurance reimbursements for the operation and a requirement for the pregnant woman to get a sonogram.

These legal restrictions "are different paths to the same goal, a goal of preventing a woman from being able to actually get an abortion, even if it's technically legal," said Jennifer Dalven of the American Civil Liberties Union rights group.

Others demand that centers providing elective abortion services comply with hospital norms that namely regulate door widths and available parking spots.

"The sole purpose is not to make people safer; the sole purpose is to close the clinics," said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics For Choice.

About 1,800 clinics provide abortion services today across the United States, but 83% of counties do not have such centers. There is only one clinic in Mississippi, a southern state with three million inhabitants.

"Knowing that a correction of Roe is unlikely in the immediate future, we've done a lot of work at the state level and we think we're running one state at the time," said March For Life president Jeanne Monahan.

"It's not so much a change in strategy as a sophistication... We've seen more people self-identifying as pro-life and especially young people."

Despite emotions still running high over the issue, activists do not resort to killing doctors as took place in the 1990s.

"They were lone wolves, they were operating on their own, insisted Kelley.

"Abortion is never going to be resolved completely; it's something that civilization is going to have to deal with maybe forever."

© 2013 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

13 Comments
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The "sanctity of life" means that the life in the womb (of the zygote or fetus at any stage of development) is a HUMAN life . . . .and therefore it is wrong to abort this life.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

semperfi and who are you to make this decision?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

When I was 20 my girlfriend got pregnant, and as I was anti-abortion at the time, we bit the bullet and had the baby, though we didn't stay together. It was not easy on anyone, including the girl herself. Still, we had resources (family, college education, intelligence, freedom from drug addictions and so on) that many people do not have. Therefore, it's important to have abortion as a "safety value" so people who really, really cannot (or should not, we all know some people like that) become worthy parents and raise their child properly have it as an option.

That being said, with Japan's population problems, why don't they put a ¥300,000 tax on abortions and give that money to people trying to have kids? I know some people doing insemination treatments and it costs a million yen per insemination attempt. Does this not sound like a good idea?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Peter - know what you are trying to say, but no, sorry, doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Whilst I am anti-abortion in most circumstances (not all), I believe that one of the reasons we are constantly reading here about newborn babies being found in dumpsters/lockers/combini toilets/on the street is because abortion is so expensive here.

I would like to see the limit for abortions lowered to under 12 weeks, unless there are medical reasons to perform the procedure later (within that I would include emotional trauma from rape that may have prevented a victim seeking help until it was too late), the cost lowered, a central database so that the number of abortions an individual receives can be monitored (so it is not used as a form of contraception), discreet hospitals for expectant mothers to receive care and support set up, baby hatches in every town to avoid the tragic and unnecessary infant deaths that happen here, a rehaul of the adoption system to get these kids out of orphanages and into loving homes with proper parents, and better sex education, including STDs which are RIFE here because of a culture of not using condoms. Just a few ideas and I know even these aren't perfect (yes, some women although very very few don't realise they are pregnant until quite late, etc etc) but surely this would be better than the system we have now.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

O M G !!! Put a ¥300.000 TAX on an Abortion ? !!! Like TAXing BULLETS to " Make the Go AWAY " ...OMG ! THIS is what's WRONG with people's " THINKING " these days... Jesus KRIST !

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

A woman has a right to choose. Bottom line. We as people have no right to ask her to undergo any procedure she does not wish to have done. This include pregnancy.

Groups such as these have been trying to control a woman's sexuality and her choices for decades. Need I go all the way back to the Salem Witch Hunts?

Who are any of you to dictate whether or not she has a baby? Some of you want to steal her baby from these women anyway.

Ladies, if you don't want to have that man's baby. If it's not what you want in life. Then you can go over to the abortion clinic as soon as possible. Don't let other's influence YOUR decision. Thank goodness this pro-life group lost Roe vs Wade. Otherwise you'd have no life at all.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's completely a theological thing. Japan had abortion as early as 1,000 years ago since there is little farming land on these islands.

The word "Tawake" meaning fool in it's literal form it means to divide the family farming land to each male child in which at the end the land will become too small to be productive. In the edo~early Showa period farmers will consider having abortion after the third or forth male and the rest placed to adoption as the eldest inherits the family land from their father.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It s a right to HAVE a baby, it s murder to kill one. The use of the phrase.. terminate a pregnancy... is a soft way of saying... killing your own child.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

a womans choice is whether she should make love to a guy or not. If she gets pregnant, then THEY both are responsible for that precious child. What is more of a right... a person's right to live or a couple's selfishness to kill their own child

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Always remember girls that with an abortion your womb is weakened and can cause deformed early births in the future. Take your sexuality seriously and if you catch a sperm and get a baby... that is a MINI YOU. You wouldn't kill YOU would you?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Really I think we should try and get the right to an abortion to be an amendment in the US Constitution. I'm sick and tired of the abortion debate, let women and possibly men have the right to choose.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A woman has a right to choose. Bottom line. We as people have no right to ask her to undergo any procedure she does not wish to have done. This include pregnancy.

I agree! A woman has the right to choose, but organizations like planned Parenthood do roughly 1000 abortions a day. So it's ok with you to advocate women to use abortion as a means of birth control? There are plenty of places where women can go and give up a child if they don't want it. There are thousands of people that can't conceive, but would love a child. That would be another option, ever thought about saying something like that? Abortion is NOT the only option and should NOT be used as a means of birth control at any given whim. It sould be done as a last resort.

Groups such as these have been trying to control a woman's sexuality and her choices for decades. Need I go all the way back to the Salem Witch Hunts?

That's going a bit over the top. Salem was a long time ago, can't remember the last time, a woman was burnt at the stake or dunked. No one wants to control a woman's sexuality, that's not the issue and as to why liberals always try to run with it, like the way they use racism when you try to make rational point, that liberals loose, throw in the racism, sexism, homophobia etc and you will lose the argument every time. That's the only arsenal they have at their disposal.

Who are any of you to dictate whether or not she has a baby? Some of you want to steal her baby from these women anyway.

Who are you to preach the high moral ground of what women can and can't do? That is totally absurd to say, some people want to steal their babies! Who? Who wants to do that? The Free Masons?

Ladies, if you don't want to have that man's baby. If it's not what you want in life. Then you can go over to the abortion clinic as soon as possible. Don't let other's influence YOUR decision. Thank goodness this pro-life group lost Roe vs Wade. Otherwise you'd have no life at all.

I have a better idea. How about men wearing condoms and women taking some other kind of preventive birth control to avoid the potential possibility of becoming pregnant. That way, there would be no need for unesscesary abortion. Before coming down on PRO life advocates, women also need to responsibilities for there actions. Yes, it's a woman's decision, but to use abortion as a form of birth control is poor and pathetic excuse to justify it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lady has a right to select. Main point here. We as individuals have no right to ask her to go through any process she does not wish to have done. This consist of maternity. tubal reversal

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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