I have written several articles on postings related to politics. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these political events.
With the death of Ruth Bader Gingsburg the issue of Roe Vs Wade has come to the forefront again, so I felt like it was important to revisit this subject again. There is a lot of confusion about the case floating around, so I want to dispel those misconceptions. There is also a lot religious fervor surrounding this rather touchy subject I will also discuss that. This article is not an attempt to change your beliefs on the subject. However, I find that having a firm grasp of a subject helps one to make a more informed decision.
Roe v. Wade was a landmark legal decision issued on January 22, 1973, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute banning abortion, effectively legalizing the procedure across the United States. The court held that a woman’s right to an abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion had been illegal throughout much of the country since the late 19th century.
Roe v. Wade has proved controversial, and Americans remain divided in their support for a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Since the 1973 ruling, many states have imposed restrictions on abortion rights.
Abortion Before Roe v. Wade
Until the late 19th century, abortion was legal in the United States before “quickening,” the point at which a woman could first feel movements of the fetus, typically around the fourth month of pregnancy. Some of the early regulations related to abortion were enacted in the 1820s and 1830s and dealt with the sale of dangerous drugs that women used to induce abortions. Despite these regulations and the fact that the drugs sometimes proved fatal to women, they continued to be advertised and sold.
In the late 1850s, the newly established American Medical Association began calling for the criminalization of abortion, partly in an effort to eliminate doctors’ competitors such as midwives and homeopaths. Additionally, some nativists, alarmed by the country’s growing population of immigrants, were anti-abortion because they feared declining birth rates among white, American-born, Protestant women.
In 1869, the Catholic Church banned abortion at any stage of pregnancy, while in 1873, Congress passed the Comstock law, which made it illegal to distribute contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs through the U.S. mail. By the 1880s, abortion was outlawed across most of the country. During the 1960s, during the women’s rights movement, court cases involving contraceptives laid the groundwork for Roe v. Wade.
In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law banning the distribution of birth control to married couples, ruling that the law violated their implied right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution. And in 1972, the Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried adults. Meanwhile, in 1970, Hawaii became the first state to legalize abortion, although the law only applied to the state’s residents. That same year, New York legalized abortion, with no residency requirement. By the time of Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion was also legally available in Alaska and Washington.
In 1969, Norma McCorvey, a Texas woman in her early 20s, sought to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. McCorvey, who had grown up in difficult, impoverished circumstances, previously had given birth twice and given up both children for adoption. At the time of McCorvey’s pregnancy in 1969 abortion was legal in Texas—but only for the purpose of saving a woman’s life.
While American women with the financial means could obtain abortions by traveling to other countries where the procedure was safe and legal, or pay a large fee to a U.S. doctor willing to secretly perform an abortion, those options were out of reach to McCorvey and many other women.
As a result, some women resorted to illegal, dangerous, “back-alley” abortions or self-induced abortions. In the 1950s and 1960s, the estimated number of illegal abortions in the United States ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. After trying unsuccessfully to get an illegal abortion, McCorvey was referred to Texas attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were interested in challenging anti-abortion laws. In court documents, McCorvey became known as “Jane Roe.”
In 1970, the attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of McCorvey and all the other women “who were or might become pregnant and want to consider all options,” against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, where McCorvey lived. Earlier, in 1964, Wade was in the national spotlight when he prosecuted Jack Ruby, who killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
Supreme Court Ruling
In June 1970, a Texas district court ruled that the state’s abortion ban was illegal because it violated a constitutional right to privacy. Afterward, Wade declared he’d continue to prosecute doctors who performed abortions. The case eventually was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, McCovey gave birth and put the child up for adoption. On Jan 22, 1973, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, struck down the Texas law banning abortion, effectively legalizing the procedure nationwide. In a majority opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, the court declared that a woman’s right to an abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment.*
The court divided pregnancy into three trimesters, and declared that the choice to end a pregnancy in the first trimester was solely up to the woman. In the second trimester, the government could regulate abortion, although not ban it, in order to protect the mother’s health. In the third trimester, the state could prohibit abortion to protect a fetus that could survive on its own outside the womb, except when a woman’s health was in danger.
Legacy of Roe v. Wade
Norma McCorvey maintained a low profile following the court’s decision, but in the 1980s she was active in the abortion rights movement. However, in the mid-1990s, after becoming friends with the head of an anti-abortion group and converting to Catholicism, she turned into a vocal opponent of the procedure. Since Roe v. Wade, many states have imposed restrictions that weaken abortion rights, and Americans remain divided over support for a woman’s right to choose an abortion.
A statistical evaluation of the relationship of political affiliation to abortion rights and anti-abortion issues shows that public opinion is much more nuanced about when abortion is acceptable than is commonly assumed. The most prominent organized groups that mobilized in response to Roe are the National Abortion Rights Action League and the National Right to Life Committee.
Advocates of Roe describe it as vital to the preservation of women’s rights, personal freedom, bodily integrity, and privacy. Advocates have also reasoned that access to safe abortion and reproductive freedom generally are fundamental rights. Some scholars (not including any member of the Supreme Court) have equated the denial of abortion rights to compulsory motherhood, and have argued that abortion bans therefore violate the Thirteenth Amendment:
When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to ‘involuntary servitude’ in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment….[E]ven if the woman has stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy, that does not permit the state to force her to remain pregnant.
Supporters of Roe contend that the decision has a valid constitutional foundation in the Fourteenth Amendment, or that the fundamental right to abortion is found elsewhere in the Constitution but not in the articles referenced in the decision.
Every year, on the anniversary of the decision, opponents of abortion march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., in the March for Life. Around 250,000 people attended the march until 2010. Estimates put the 2011 and 2012 attendances at 400,000 each, and the 2013 March for Life drew an estimated 650,000 people.
Opponents of Roe assert that the decision lacks a valid constitutional foundation. Like the dissenters in Roe, they maintain that the Constitution is silent on the issue, and that proper solutions to the question would best be found via state legislatures and the legislative process, rather than through an all-encompassing ruling from the Supreme Court.
A prominent argument against the Roe decision is that, in the absence of consensus about when meaningful life begins, it is best to avoid the risk of doing harm.
In response to Roe v. Wade, most states enacted or attempted to enact laws limiting or regulating abortion, such as laws requiring parental consent or parental notification for minors to obtain abortions; spousal mutual consent laws; spousal notification laws; laws requiring abortions to be performed in hospitals, not clinics; laws barring state funding for abortions; laws banning intact dilation and extraction, also known as partial-birth abortion; laws requiring waiting periods before abortions; and laws mandating that women read certain types of literature and watch a fetal ultrasound before undergoing an abortion. In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, barring federal funding of abortions (except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother) for poor women through the Medicaid program. The Supreme Court struck down some state restrictions in a long series of cases stretching from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, but upheld restrictions on funding, including the Hyde Amendment, in the case of Harris v. McRae (1980).**
Some opponents of abortion maintain that personhood begins at fertilization or conception, and should therefore be protected by the Constitution; the dissenting justices in Roe instead wrote that decisions about abortion “should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.”
In 1995, Norma L. McCorvey revealed that she had become anti-abortion, and from then until her death in 2017, she was a vocal opponent of abortion. In a documentary filmed before her death in 2017 she restated her support for abortion, and said that she had been paid by anti-abortion groups, including Operation Rescue, in exchange for providing support.
Religion and Roe vs Wade
I want you to know that I now way support or denigrate the statements made in the following section. I have included this information strictly for educational purposes.
The Supreme Court decision in favor of McCorvey was lauded as a victory for women’s reproductive rights and eliminated any and all considerations pertaining to stages of pregnancy, fetal development, or emotional trauma to the mother. It did, however, leave room for states to enforce their own laws concerning the second and third trimesters. According to several polls, the number of legal abortions since Roe vs. Wade was passed may now be as high as 60 million. The deaths of sixty million unborn Americans should force us to think carefully about this issue. While many champion Roe vs. Wade as a great victory for women, is this the Christian viewpoint? Is this God’s viewpoint?
It was not until the late 1950s that pregnancy began to fall out of popularity in the United States. Although abortion has been practiced throughout history, the predominant view was always that children were blessings. Most families were comprised of two parents and the children born to or adopted by them. Mothers usually stayed home to raise the kids while fathers earned the paycheck.
The 1960s brought the sexual revolution and, with it, the rising fear of unwanted pregnancies. Various methods of birth control exploded on the market, but when the birth control failed, as it often did, abortion became a desired solution. Since abortions were illegal in the United States, many women sought to obtain unsafe “back-alley abortions” from untrained abortionists. Disease, sterility, and even death resulted from those choices. That gruesome history made the nation ripe for a change in abortion laws. Rather than curb the rampant sexual immorality, the country began to cry for an abortion solution.
God already had a solution, but America had ordered Him from the classrooms and from the bedrooms. The wages of sin is always death (Romans 6:23), and in 1973 the ones America chose to pay those wages were the unborn children. God tells us loud and clear that He is the Author of life (Genesis 1:27; Acts 3:15). Every human being is a unique creation designed to reflect the glory of God (Psalm 139:13–18). The Lord says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). It is God who forms a baby in the womb.
Roe vs. Wade was indeed a great victory—for sexual immorality, for selfishness, and for death mongers. It freed women from slavery to their natural, motherly instincts at the cost of their souls. God created within a woman’s heart the desire to protect and nurture her own babies (Isaiah 49:15). Regardless of how inconvenient or difficult the pregnancy may be, elective abortion is an unnatural step. The baby is not the only thing that dies. The mother will lose an integral part of herself. And she will live with that knowledge the rest of her life.
Roe vs. Wade legalized murder, because abortion is murder. The growing baby is not a part of its mother, so killing it means killing a separate entity. A distinct human being. God abhors murder, as seen in many places in Scripture (e.g., Genesis 9:5; Exodus 20:13; Revelation 22:15).
Christians should view the Roe vs. Wade decision with sadness and outrage. We should do everything within our legal power to overturn it. Ironically, Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe in the landmark decision) was befriended by a pro-life leader whose love and patience broke through her fear and anger. McCorvey eventually reversed her opinion on abortion and joined the movement to overthrow Roe vs. Wade.
It may be surprising for some to find out that in the years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, clergy were among the staunchest supporters of women seeking an abortion. Twenty-one ministers and rabbis created the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, an underground network that counseled women and led them to compassionate, competent doctors who provided abortion care. Although the network had only a handful of clergy at first, it grew to about 1,400 clergy operating on the East Coast during the 1960s to serve women from across the nation.
A few years after the Roe decision, a number of religious organizations voiced support for the decision, even as they acknowledged the moral complexity of abortion and honored the sanctity of life. Their views were articulated in an ecumenical study document on abortion published in 1978 and discussed in a recent article on AlterNet.
In the study document, American Baptist Churches said that, “Abortion should be a matter of personal decision.” The American Lutheran Church agreed, recognizing the “freedom and responsibility of individuals to make their own choices in light of the best information available to them and their understanding of God’s will for their lives.”
The Church of the Brethren voiced support in the document for women who, “after prayer and counseling, believe abortion is the least destructive alternative available to them.” The Brethren took this position so that women could “make their decision openly, honestly, without the suffering imposed by an uncompromising community.”
What is even more surprising than the nuanced views of these faith communities, however, is the early support for Roe from the Southern Baptist Convention. Although they are currently among the fiercest opponents of abortion, Southern Baptists supported the 1973 ruling. From their early days, Southern Baptists have been fervent believers in religious liberty and saw Roe v. Wade in this light. If the government could tell a woman what to do with her body, they reasoned, it could also tell Baptists what they could — or couldn’t — do with their religion.
Looking back on history isn’t enough. We must also focus on what to do in the present and what our vision is for the future. Groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, Faith Aloud, the Religious Institute and others are helping to point the way. Each is busy doing a piece of what is needed. These groups are:
- Arming clergy and faith leaders with compelling messages that are true to their own religious teachings and traditions
- Educating congregations to connect their religious beliefs and conscience with the moral complexities of life and to claim the sacredness of human sexuality
- Linking reproductive rights to broader social and economic justice issues such as health care, education, employment and housing — all of which affect a woman’s capacity to be a parent and to raise a child with dignity
- Challenging the harsh — and often inaccurate — rhetoric of religious conservatives that stigmatizes women and dishonors their capacity to make moral decisions
- Urging public officials to support women and families in real and meaningful ways rather than setting up roadblocks that harm their health and limit their lives
- Laying out the true meaning of religious liberty so that this core American value is not used as a smokescreen to limit women’s access to contraception and family planning
The 1978 ecumenical study document articulated the inherent value of the fetus and the importance of reducing the need for abortion. It also held up values of humility, freedom, justice, balance, compassion and responsibility.
As we envision a future of health and reproductive justice for all women, those values are more important than ever. We can add to them the words of a just-released affirmation on faith and reproductive justice from CAP’s Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. It is a credo of belief in the dignity of all God’s people and a pledge to act — individually and collectively — so that all women can flourish and fulfill their God-given potential as individuals and as parents.
I normally entitle this section the conclusion, I changed it this time, because I don’t want to sway people towards any one view. Your background, moral compass and religion will help you make the right decision for you. So I have included a background on the history of abortion, the case, the people involved in the case, subsequent related cases on abortion, and how various religions view the case and ramifications. I have also included how religion and our government interact. I hope this information helps to explain Roe vs Wade. Now I will add my opinion of the case. It was a landmark case, however I believe it was flawed from the onset. They could have mad it a definitive decision, but the justices chose not to do so. They had to have known that their decision was not going to be the last word on the subject. That is why I don’t know why the worded it the way they did. While I believe that women should have the right of choice, abortion should not replace poor family planning. People take the act of sex too lightly. An unwanted pregnancy can ruin a life. It can also be seen as a gift. I believe too many people take the decision too lightly. When I was younger and much dumber, I asked a young lady to marry me, we were engaged and subsequently lived together for a year. That lady had a younger sister who was 22 years old at the time. She had already had 3 abortions under her belt. She obviously was not taking birth control seriously and abortion seriously as well. I never brought up the subject to her, but I always questioned her decision making process. To make a long story short, we broke up after a year, and I have never looked back. I think I dodged a bullet with that one. There was no medical reason for the abortions, she was a healthy young female.
I know there are always two sides of the story, and lie is not black and white it is many shades of gray. Now do I think a 13 or 14 year old young lady pay the price of poor decision and have to raise a child, no I am not. But if the young girl is healthy enough and physically mature enough to carry to term, why help out a barren couple by putting the baby up for adoption? It is something to think about. Obviously if the young lady’s health will be in jeopardy with carrying the baby to term, than there is only one choice and that is abortion. Also abortion should be an option for rape cases and incest cases. Can you imagine what it would be like to be forced to carry a baby for 9 months that ws the result of a rape? I can’t. I also believe that the mother should have the option for abortion if her health is in jeopardy. Roe vs Wade allowed for these cases. It broke the pregnancy into 3 trimesters. The first trimester, the choice of abortion was solely up to the woman. Than they screwed up. They said the government could step in on the second trimester. What the hell were they thinking? This has opened up the abortion issue to a whole hornets nest. The third trimester is ok, because you should not be having an abortion that late unless the health of the mother is at stake. It is just too unsafe for regular abortions to be allowed. And besides I think 6 months is enough time to decide whether or not you want to have the baby. One thing that must be remembered, an abortion is forever, this is a decision that you will have to live with for the rest of your life.
So now, in 2020 we are still dealing with Roe vs Wade, 47 years later. Millions of dollars have spent needlessly in cases because the Supreme Court did not have the fortitude to formulate a definitive ruling. Isn’t that what the Supreme Court is for?
en.wikipedia.org, “Roe vs Wade,” By Wikipedia editors; history.com, “Roe vs Wade,” By History Channel editors; pewresearch.org, “With religion-related rulings on the horizon, U.S. Christians see Supreme Court favorably,”BY DALIA FAHMY; pewresearch.org, “8 facts about religion and government in the United States,” By Dalia Fahmy; gotquestions.org, “How should a Christian view the Roe vs. Wade decision?” huffpost.com, “Roe and Religion: A Surprising History,” By Sally Steenland;
*Abortion and right to privacy
After dealing with standing, the Court then proceeded to the main issue of the case: the constitutionality of abortion laws. It began with a historical survey of the legal status of abortion across Roman law and the Anglo-American common law. It also reviewed the developments of medical procedures and technology to perform abortions, which had only become reliably safe in the early 20th century.
After its historical survey, the Court introduced the concept of a constitutional “right to privacy” that was intimated in earlier cases involving parental control over childrearing (Meyer v. Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters) and reproductive autonomy with the use of contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut). Then, “with virtually no further explanation of the privacy value”, the Court ruled that regardless of exactly which of its provisions were involved, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of liberty covered a right to privacy that generally protected a pregnant woman’s decision whether or not to abort a pregnancy. This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment‘s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or … in the Ninth Amendment‘s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.— Roe, 410 U.S. at 153.
The Court reasoned that outlawing abortions would infringe a pregnant woman’s right to privacy for several reasons: having unwanted children “may force upon the woman a distressful life and future”; it may bring imminent psychological harm; caring for the child may tax the mother’s physical and mental health; and because there may be “distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child”. But then the Court rejected the notion that this right to privacy was absolute. It held instead that the abortion right must be balanced against other government interests. The Court found two government interests that were sufficiently “compelling” to permit states to impose some limitations on the right to choose to have an abortion: first, protecting the mother’s health, and second, protecting the life of the fetus.
A State may properly assert important interests in safeguarding health, maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life. At some point in pregnancy, these respective interests become sufficiently compelling to sustain regulation of the factors that govern the abortion decision. … We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.— Roe, 410 U.S. at 154.
The state of Texas had argued that total bans on abortion were justifiable because “life” begins at the moment of conception, and therefore its governmental interest in protecting prenatal life should apply to all pregnancies regardless of their stage. But the Court found that there was no indication that the Constitution’s uses of the word “person” were meant to include fetuses, and so it rejected Texas’s argument that a fetus should be considered a “person” with a legal and constitutional right to life. It noted that there was still great disagreement over when an unborn fetus becomes a living being.
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, in this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.— Roe, 410 U.S. at 159.
The Court settled on the three trimesters of pregnancy as the framework to resolve the problem. During the first trimester, when it was believed that the procedure was safer than childbirth, the Court ruled that the government could place no restriction on a woman’s ability to choose to abort a pregnancy other than minimal medical safeguards such as requiring a licensed physician to perform the procedure. From the second trimester on, the Court ruled that evidence of increasing risks to the mother’s health gave the state a compelling interest, and that it could enact medical regulations on the procedure so long as they were reasonable and “narrowly tailored” to protecting mothers’ health. Since the beginning of the third trimester was normally considered to be the point at which a fetus became viable under the level of medical science available in the early 1970s, the Court ruled that during the third trimester the state had a compelling interest in protecting prenatal life, and could legally prohibit all abortions except where necessary to protect the mother’s life or health.
The Court concluded that Texas’s abortion statutes were unconstitutional, and struck them down:
A state criminal abortion statute of the current Texas type, that excepts from criminality only a life-saving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved, is violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.— Roe, 410 U.S. at 164.
**Roe in subsequent decisions and politics
Opposition to Roe on the bench grew when President Reagan, who supported legislative restrictions on abortion, began making federal judicial appointments in 1981. Reagan denied that there was any litmus test: “I have never given a litmus test to anyone that I have appointed to the bench…. I feel very strongly about those social issues, but I also place my confidence in the fact that the one thing that I do seek are judges that will interpret the law and not write the law. We’ve had too many examples in recent years of courts and judges legislating.”
In addition to White and Rehnquist, Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor began dissenting from the Court’s abortion cases, arguing in 1983 that the trimester-based analysis devised by the Roe Court was “unworkable.” Shortly before his retirement from the bench, Chief Justice Warren Burger suggested in 1986 that Roe be “reexamined”; the associate justice who filled Burger’s place on the Court – Justice Antonin Scalia – vigorously opposed Roe. Concern about overturning Roe played a major role in the defeat of Robert Bork‘s nomination to the Court in 1987; the man eventually appointed to replace Roe-supporter Lewis Powell was Anthony Kennedy.
The Supreme Court of Canada used the rulings in both Roe and Doe v. Bolton as grounds to find Canada’s federal law restricting access to abortions unconstitutional. That Canadian case, R. v. Morgentaler, was decided in 1988.
Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
Main article: Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
In a 5–4 decision in 1989’s Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court, declined to explicitly overrule Roe, because “none of the challenged provisions of the Missouri Act properly before us conflict with the Constitution.”In this case, the Court upheld several abortion restrictions, and modified the Roe trimester framework.
In concurring opinions, O’Connor refused to reconsider Roe, and Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the Court and O’Connor for not overruling Roe. Blackmun – author of the Roe decision – stated in his dissent that White, Kennedy and Rehnquist were “callous” and “deceptive,” that they deserved to be charged with “cowardice and illegitimacy,” and that their plurality opinion “foments disregard for the law.” White had recently opined that the majority reasoning in Roe v. Wade was “warped.”
Planned Parenthood v. Casey
Main article: Planned Parenthood v. Casey
During initial deliberations for Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), an initial majority of five Justices (Rehnquist, White, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas) were willing to effectively overturn Roe. Kennedy changed his mind after the initial conference, and O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter joined Blackmun and Stevens to reaffirm the central holding of Roe, saying, “Our law affords constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. […] These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Only Justice Blackmun would have retained Roe entirely and struck down all aspects of the statute at issue in Casey.
Scalia’s dissent acknowledged that abortion rights are of “great importance to many women”, but asserted that it is not a liberty protected by the Constitution, because the Constitution does not mention it, and because longstanding traditions have permitted it to be legally proscribed. Scalia concluded: “[B]y foreclosing all democratic outlet for the deep passions this issue arouses, by banishing the issue from the political forum that gives all participants, even the losers, the satisfaction of a fair hearing and an honest fight, by continuing the imposition of a rigid national rule instead of allowing for regional differences, the Court merely prolongs and intensifies the anguish.”
Stenberg v. Carhart
Main article: Stenberg v. Carhart
During the 1990s, the state of Nebraska attempted to ban a certain second-trimester abortion procedure known as intact dilation and extraction (sometimes called partial birth abortion). The Nebraska ban allowed other second-trimester abortion procedures called dilation and evacuation abortions. Ginsburg (who replaced White) stated, “this law does not save any fetus from destruction, for it targets only ‘a method of performing abortion’.” The Supreme Court struck down the Nebraska ban by a 5–4 vote in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), citing a right to use the safest method of second trimester abortion.
Kennedy, who had co-authored the 5–4 Casey decision upholding Roe, was among the dissenters in Stenberg, writing that Nebraska had done nothing unconstitutional. In his dissent, Kennedy described the second trimester abortion procedure that Nebraska was not seeking to prohibit, and thus argued that since this dilation and evacuation procedure remained available in Nebraska, the state was free to ban the other procedure sometimes called “partial birth abortion.”
The remaining three dissenters in Stenberg – Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas – disagreed again with Roe: “Although a State may permit abortion, nothing in the Constitution dictates that a State must do so.”
Gonzales v. Carhart
Main article: Gonzales v. Carhart
In 2003, Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which led to a lawsuit in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart. The Court had previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that a state’s ban on “partial birth abortion” was unconstitutional because such a ban did not have an exception for the health of the woman. The membership of the Court changed after Stenberg, with John Roberts and Samuel Alito replacing Rehnquist and O’Connor, respectively. The ban at issue in Gonzales v. Carhart was a federal statute, rather than a state statute as in the Stenberg case, but was otherwise nearly identical to Stenberg, replicating its vague description of partial-birth abortion and making no exception for the consideration of the woman’s health.
On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court handed down a 5 to 4 decision upholding the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, asserting that Congress was within its power to generally ban the procedure, although the Court left the door open for as-applied challenges. Kennedy’s opinion did not reach the question of whether the Court’s prior decisions in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Stenberg v. Carhart remained valid, and instead the Court stated that the challenged statute remained consistent with those past decisions whether or not those decisions remained valid.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito joined the majority. Justices Ginsburg, joined by Stevens, Souter, and Breyer, dissented, contending that the ruling ignored Supreme Court abortion precedent, and also offering an equality-based justification for abortion precedent. Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Scalia, contending that the Court’s prior decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey should be reversed. They also noted that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act may exceeded the powers of Congress under the Commerce Clause but that the question was not raised before the court.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Main article: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
In the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant abortion rights case before the Supreme Court since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the Supreme Court in a 5–3 decision on June 27, 2016, swept away forms of state restrictions on the way abortion clinics can function. The Texas legislature enacted in 2013 restrictions on the delivery of abortions services that created an undue burden for women seeking an abortion by requiring abortion doctors to have difficult-to-obtain “admitting privileges” at a local hospital and by requiring clinics to have costly hospital-grade facilities. The Court struck down these two provisions “facially” from the law at issue – that is, the very words of the provisions were invalid, no matter how they might be applied in any practical situation. According to the Supreme Court the task of judging whether a law puts an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to abortion belongs with the courts and not the legislatures.
State laws regarding Roe
Several states have enacted so-called trigger laws which would take effect in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, with the effect of outlawing abortions on the state level. Those states include Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota. Additionally, many states did not repeal pre-1973 statutes that criminalized abortion, and some of those statutes could again be in force if Roe were reversed.
Other states have passed laws to maintain the legality of abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Those states include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington.
The Mississippi Legislature has attempted to make abortion unfeasible without having to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Mississippi law as of 2012 was being challenged in federal courts and was temporarily blocked.
Alabama House Republicans passed a law on April 30, 2019 that will criminalize abortion if it goes into effect. It offers only two exceptions: serious health risk to the mother or a lethal fetal anomaly. Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on May 14, primarily as a symbolic gesture in hopes of challenging Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
According to a 2019 study, if Roe v. Wade is reversed and abortion bans are implemented in trigger law states and states considered highly likely to ban abortion, the increases in travel distance are estimated to prevent 93,546 to 143,561 women from accessing abortion care.
8 facts about religion and government in the United States
1)While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.
2)Congress has always been overwhelmingly Christian, and roughly nine-in-ten representatives (88%) in the current Congress identify as Christian, according to a 2019 analysis. While the number of self-identified Christians in Congress ticked down in the last election, Christians as a whole – and especially Protestants and Catholics – are still overrepresented on Capitol Hill relative to their share of the U.S. population.
3)Almost all U.S. presidents, including Donald Trump, have been Christian, and many have identified as either Episcopalian or Presbyterian. But two of the most famous presidents, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had no formal religious affiliation. Most U.S. presidents have been sworn in with a Bible, and they traditionally seal their oath of office with “so help me God.”
4)Roughly half of Americans feel it is either very (20%) or somewhat (32%) important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, according to a survey this past February. But only around four-in-ten (39%) say it is important for a president to share their religious beliefs. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say it is at least somewhat important for a president to have strong religious beliefs (65% vs 41%).
5)Americans are divided on the extent to which the country’s laws should reflect Bible teachings. Roughly half of U.S. adults say the Bible should influence U.S. laws either a great deal (23%) or some (26%), and more than a quarter (28%) say the Bible should prevail over the will of the people if the two are at odds, according to the February survey. Half of Americans, meanwhile, say the Bible shouldn’t influence U.S. laws much (19%) or at all (31%).
6)More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) say churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. An even higher share (76%) say these houses of worship should not endorse political candidates during elections, according to a 2019 survey. Still, more than a third of Americans (36%) say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political matters. (The Johnson Amendment, enacted in 1954, prohibits tax-exempt institutions like churches from involvement in political campaigns on behalf of any candidate.)
7)Only about a third of Americans (32%) say government policies should support religious values. Two-thirds (65%) say religion should be kept out of government policies, a 2017 Pew Research Center survey found.
8)Even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that it is unconstitutional for a teacher to lead a class in prayer at a public school, 8% of public school students ages 13 to 17 say they have ever experienced this, according to a 2019 survey. (It is, however, possible that some teens who said they’ve experienced this could have previously attended religious private schools where teacher-led prayer is constitutional.) This experience is more common in the South (12%) than in the Northeast (2%). Four-in-ten U.S. teens in public schools (41%) feel it’s appropriate for a teacher to lead a class in prayer, including 29% of teens who know that this practice is banned but say that it is acceptable nevertheless.
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