Abortion in the United States is legal. In that context, it would seem ridiculous to argue that the ‘pro choice’ movement has been anything but successful. However, as you will see, over the years the more successful side in the ‘Abortion War’ has been the pro-life movement. Restrictions are rarely taken down once in place. The United States Congress has never come anywhere close to passing a comprehensive abortion law. Even though they have the ability, they tend to leave it up to the Supreme Court. In addition, the restrictions have gotten progressively more creative as well as effective. No matter what side of the debate you are on, you are going to want to see what is actually going near the front lines.
10. Increasingly Limited Access To Abortion Clinics
In North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas, there is only one clinic open in the entire state that performs abortions. In Mississippi particularly, there are efforts on the state level to even eliminate the Jackson Women’s Health Clinic. That means that women in rural areas of the state have to often travel hundreds of miles to receive the procedure. Steps taken in Mississippi according to Governor Phil Bryant are specifically designed to “the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on: to say that we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.”
9. A Majority of Americans Support Some Abortion Restrictions
According to a Gallup Poll conducted in May of 2012, only 41 percent of Americans currently identify themselves as ‘pro-choice.’ Currently, a third of people who would identify themselves as Democrats also would identify themselves as ‘pro-life.’ Even more telling, over 50 percents of voters in the United States are for abortions ‘with some restrictions.’ Equally about 20 percent of the American population on either side would support either ‘no restrictions’ or would support abortion under ‘any circumstances.’ The uphill battle that abortion rights activists are facing is that the classic stance of allowing abortions with no restrictions advocated by the pro-choice movement is distasteful to fully fifty percent of the population consistently.
8. The “Hyde Amendment”
The Hyde Amendment is known as a ‘ride’ (a provision tacked onto a larger bill) in federal budgetary bills that specifically prohibits funding of abortions by the federal government. The ‘rider’ was first championed by Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois in 1976. The ‘Hyde Amendment’ has subsequently been approved in every approved budget afterwards. In theory, the Hyde Amendment would cease to exist if the language was simply not in the budget bill. That has not happened as to this date. Therefore, the Hyde Amendment is a de facto federal law that has to be extended yearly.
7. Executive Order 13535
During the debate on the law which would eventually become the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010, a significant number of Democrats in the House of Representatives refused to vote for the law without assurance that funding for abortion would not be part of the act. This led to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment proposed by Bart Stupak of Michigan. Essentially, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would extend the Hyde Amendment to newly created Health Insurance Exchanges. The Senate version of the bill did not have such language in the bill. In order to get the support in the House, President Obama signed Executive Order 13535 to prevent any federally created insurance exchanges from funding abortions. The move was not popular with either pro-life or pro-choice groups. However, Executive Order 13535 is now within the implemented framework of the Affordable Health Care Act.
6. The ‘Todd Akin Victory’
During the 2012 elections, Missouri Senator Todd Akin made national news by indicating that the female body would shut down a potential pregnancy during a ‘legitimate rape.’ The comment was nationally panned. Ultimately, Akin lost the election and his seat in the Senate. Abortion rights activists heralded the victory as a modern statement for women’s as well as abortion rights. The problem? While Senator Claire McCaskill has put in support for pro-choice issues, she has never actually put forth any legislation and has been relatively quiet in her support. So while a vocal opponent of abortion was defeated, it is not like the winner has ever made it a primary issue either. Keep in mind, this is supposedly the biggest boost for the movement in years.
5. ‘Personhood’ Laws
At this point, ‘personhood’ referendums have failed in Colorado twice and in the state of Mississippi once. Essentially, the ‘Personhood’ laws would not outlaw abortion, but recognize the right of a fetus to be a person from the moment of conception. In Roe V. Wade, it was stated that a fetus was not a ‘person’ but a ‘potential life.’ By granting ‘personhood’ to a fetus, then an abortion could not be theoretically performed because it is a violation of that person’s human rights. It never says that abortion would be illegal, however the personhood laws would create an environment in which an abortion would be impossible. It would almost certainly be challenged which would lead to a present day Supreme Court having to either validate or invalidate the personhood status of a fetus. The next personhood battleground appears to be brewing in North Dakota.
4. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. Versus Casey
In 1982, Pennsylvania passed the Pennsylvania Abortion Control act of 1982. Five provisions of that act were challenged in court by the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. Those provisions included parental permission, a 24 hour waiting period, spousal notification, a requirement requiring doctors to inform women of the medical risks of abortions, and certain reporting mandates on abortion clinics. Ten years later, the case had worked its way all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court struck down the spousal notification, but upheld the other portions as not being an ‘undue restriction.’ This paved the way for other states to confidently pass laws including waiting periods, parental consent, and requiring medical professionals to notify the patients of health risks. In addition, the precedent was set to allow states to test other restrictions in new laws.
3. In-State Hospital Admitting Restrictions
A truly effective recent tactic in Tennessee and Mississippi to limiting abortions is new laws requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Without the privileges, the doctors would be unable to perform abortions until such time as they had attained them. As a result of the law as well as the finances needed to mount a legal defense, the Volunteer Women’s Clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee (which had been in operation for 38 years) was forced to shut down. Many local hospitals in Mississippi are run by religious organizations. If it is entirely within the purview of a say a Catholic Hospital to grant privileges to an abortion doctor, then the chances of achieving those privileges severely dwindles. In Mississippi, the regulation has only been halted by a temporary court order.
2. Hospital Zoning Restrictions
In November of 2012, the state health board passed a resolution 13-2 that abortion clinics needed to be zoned as if they were new hospitals. The ruling technically does not restrict the ability of the doctors to provide abortions. It does impose regulations on the places in which abortions could be provided. Why could this possibly close some of the 20 clinics in Virginia currently providing abortions? Hallways. Yes, hallways. Virginia hospitals require that hallways be at least five feet wide in order to pass a hospital stretcher through, then the whole inside of the building would have to be redone or a new building would be needed. It does not provide an unreasonable impediment to the woman receiving an abortion under Roe V. Wade ans is therefore a convenient end run around to closing multiple abortion clinics. There is no specific requirement that a state has to have an operational abortion clinic. Therefore, in states with only one, the ability to provide abortions can be completely shut down without actually outlawing abortions.
1. Divisions Within The Feminist Movement
In the 1970s, Roe V. Wade was seen as one of the crowning achievements of the feminist movement. Memories of back alley abortions as well as the fight for the birth control pill were still fresh in women’s minds. Currently, the leaders of the movement in the 1970s do not present a face for the movement of women in their child bearing years. Younger women are eschewing established organizations such as the National Organization for Women or Planned Parenthood in favor of more nebulous social networking. Younger women are also not as likely to consider themselves to be ‘pro-choice’ as in support of ‘reproductive rights.’ In short, the generational divide is not presenting a unified front. The opinion of the pro-life movement largely has not shifted at all. Therefore, it has become easier over the decades for the pro-life movement (once considered to be dead) to mobilize without a significant plan of opposition.