Abortion laws spark controversy



Tanisha Singh, News Editor

Since colonial times, women have attempted to follow colonial medical recipes to induce abortions with garden herbs. As the 18th century commercialization of such products began to make waves, the first laws regulating abortion emerged and the abortion business gained attention nationwide. According to “When Abortion Was a Crime” by Leslie J. Reagan, in the late 19th century, Americans had an average of two million abortions performed annually, a number eight times as high as today’s. Now, over two centuries later, the constant tug-of-war between states and individual rights on the issue of abortion continues today.

With the landmark 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held abortion to be a fundamental right. For the first three months of pregnancy, women could not be denied the right to an abortion. Following this, abortion cases were held on the basis of strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny, a standard of judicial review, evaluates cases based on whether a constitutional right outweighs of government interest or not. Although many upcoming laws don’t fall under the standard of strict scrutiny, restrictions on abortion are making their way to American homes this year.

Just this year, an Oklahoma lawmaker proposed legislation requiring all its public restrooms to carry anti-abortion signs. The signs would read along the lines of, “If you need help raising your child, we can help you” followed by instructions of who to contact for assistance. However, the legislation was quickly abandoned after businesses argued the unnecessary amounts of funding this project would take.

Additionally, Texas has approved new rules requiring health care facilities to bury fetal remains after performing abortions, rather than disposing of them. Indiana and Louisiana have also established similar burial guidelines for aborted fetuses. Abortion rights activists argue that these laws only cause unnecessary intrusion into a woman’s privacy.

Some grassroots movements have gone as far as to collect signatures in efforts to adopt a measure to ban abortion altogether. Abolish Abortion Idaho is hoping to pass a measure banning abortion and penalizing it with first-degree murder. This would apply to women that undergo rape, incest, or even find the pregnancy to be a danger to their health. Regardless of the group’s efforts, federal law on abortion rights and precedent set by Roe v Wade would supercede this and other state laws. Although this is not unconstitutional based on our nation’s foundation of federalism, these decisions infringe upon the individual rights of citizens who believe abortion should not be allowed due to religious beliefs.

However, limitations on abortion remain prevalent nationwide. Today, even though abortion has been legalized, more than 80 percent of US counties don’t have abortion providers, while some states only have one or two. Furthermore, lack of education on abortion serves to prevent the necessary medical attention women need. In fact, only 12 percent of medical schools teach first trimesters abortion in the United States.

Even after Roe v Wade and women’s protests, abortion is still difficult to obtain even though it is a right. Rather than completely banning the practice, states are trying, and even succeeding, at limiting this right. Differing opinions on abortion and the controversy between state and individual rights will continue as the year progress and new laws and limitations are addressed.