U.S. Supreme Court

The Ongoing Dispute of Abortion in America

In January of 1973, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision regarding the issue of abortion.  The case was that of Roe v. Wade.  Jane Roe argued to the Supreme Court that abortions are constitutionally allowed before the fetus of a baby was considered, “viable.”  “Viable,” refers to the time during pregnancy where the baby can be removed from the mother’s womb and be kept alive (this includes being kept alive with artificial aid).  “Viability” comes at about the seven-month mark of a pregnancy.

The Supreme Court ruled in a vote that won 7 to 2 that abortion was a woman’s Constitutional right.  Therefore, any laws that restricted abortion were automatically nullified and abortion was legal in every state upon demand.  Prior to this decision, abortion was illegal in a large part of the United States.

This map of the U.S. shows how restricted abortion was prior to the Roe v. Wade decision.

Red - completely illegal.

Purple – legal in cases of rape.

Blue – legal in cases of danger to women’s health.

Green – legal in cases of rape, incest, and danger to women’s health.

Yellow – legal upon request.


The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 created a huge debate that continues today.  It is a debate that asks: to what extent should abortion be legal?  The debate also asks: how big of a role should moral and religious values play in our political decisions?

The debate is between two primary sides.  One is the “pro-life” side which believes abortion should be totally illegal because they believe life starts at conception.  Republicans tend to be pro-life.  The 2012 Republican Party Platform released this statement calling for a human life amendment to the Constitution saying the fourteenth amendment has protections that should also be granted to unborn children:

“Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”

Democrats, on the other hand, tend to be more pro-choice.  The 2012 Democratic Party Platform released this statement claiming their support for the Roe v. Wade decision:

“The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.”

Besides the political debates going on, there are several private organizations throughout the country that advocate for one side or the other.  A big player on the pro-life side is the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church openly opposes any and all forms of abortion, calling it a, “barbaric crime against humanity.” There are many movements in the country, however, that oppose groups such as the Catholic Church, that say abortion should be up to the women carrying the baby with no intervention from any other group or person.  Such movements are the Pro-Choice Movement and the NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The debate has been going on since 1973, and it could potentially lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  Many experts say, however, that it is unlikely it will ever be overturned.  In a poll last year, the 40 year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, 63% of people polled said they do not support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  The American people must keep in mind though, a rather unfortunate statistic, that 37% of people polled were unaware of what Roe v. Wade was about.  They incorrectly associated it with things like school desegregation or gun laws.

The American people must ask themselves a very good question: What kind of an issue is abortion? Moral? Legal? Medical?  About 47% of Americans find abortion to be morally wrong, 13% say it is morally acceptable, and 27% say it is not a moral issue.  Religion plays a huge role for some peoples’ views on the issue of abortion, as the public knows already with the Catholic Church.  An interesting fact is that only 17% of the people who said they want the Roe v. Wade decision retained believe it is morally acceptable.

Will the United States ever see a legal decision made on abortion? The public will to have to wait and see.

I am posting a series of articles about current actions in Congress on the issue and actions being taken by various movements throughout the country that support either side.  I will also be looking into abortion as a worldwide issue and will keep you posted on what turns up.
“OnTheIssues.org – Candidates on the Issues.” OnTheIssues.org – Candidates on the Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014.
“Abortion: MedlinePlus.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2014.
“Abortion – Just Facts.” Abortion – Just Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2014.
Image, “Abortion in the United States by State.” N.p., 3 Dec. 2007. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.