History of Abortion Laws in the United States
Roe vs Wade Case
Current Legal Situation
Abortion is seemingly becoming an enormous public health challenge, in the United States. It has also emerged to be one of the most contentious social issues among the U.S population, leading to an unprecedented debate over its legalization. This debate can be attributed to the current situation whereby the prevalence rates of abortion seem to have assumed upward trends. It is quite surprising to learn that almost half of pregnancies among women, in the United States are unintended; thus, termination of the pregnancies serves as the most appropriate alternative. It has been found out that half of the women experiences at least one unintended pregnancy before the age of 45 years, and a third of these pregnancies are terminated. In the past decade, cases of abortion have increased significantly and, this change in prevalence trends is believed to have been caused by an array of social, medical and economic factors. Currently, epidemiological reports indicate that four women out of ten pregnant women carry out abortion, in the U.S. However, it is worth noting that the prevalence of abortion among different social classes of people with different socioeconomic status are relatively variant, owing to the differences in conception rates. In the past two decades, unintended pregnancy rates among women with low socioeconomic status increased by 50%, whereas the rates decreased by 29% among women with high socioeconomic status. These epidemiological trends have caused uproar in the society, leading to the current abortion debate. Despite the controversy overshadowing the issue, abortion appears to be a personal issue because; it influences one’s health and social life. Therefore, this argument paper will give an overview over the issue of abortion and attempt to provide a justification for the legalization of abortion.
Although abortions are illegal in majority of states, in the United States, I think it should be legal in all 50 states. A lot of infants born in hospitals today do not go home with the mother due to abortions being illegal, causing the mother to give the infant up for adoption. If abortions were legal in the United States, there would be less people on welfare.
History of Abortion Laws in the United States
The history of abortion dates back to the 1760s when settlers were establishing their settlements, in the United States. Abortion was regarded to as a legal practice among women but, regulations to control abortion emerged during the first half of the 19th Century when different federal states begun introducing restrictive laws, although anti-abortion laws varied from state to state (NAF, 2010). By 1800, all medical procedure was considered risky; thus, abortion was categorized among the other medical practices, which resulted into fatal outcomes. As such, it did not attract significant attention from medical professionals and lawmakers.
In 1900, arguments by the newly formed American Medical Association, that abortion was a dangerous medical procedure and immoral enhanced abortion criminalization approaches by many federal states. Later on, by 1910, abortion had been criminalized in all states except the state of Kentucky, which had not established anti-abortion laws (Lewis & Shimabukuro, 2001).
Thereafter, Comstock laws, which were established in 1880s to criminalize abortion in the 49 federal states, remained effective until 1973, when a landmark Supreme Court ruling diverted the course of the issue. However, it is worth noting that prohibition of abortion during the first half of the 20th Century did not reduce the prevalence rates; instead, they increase to as high as 1.2 million yearly by 1970s. As a result, a large number of women were adversely harmed by the impacts of illegal abortion (Jacoby, 1998). This is probably the principal reason as to why liberalization of abortion laws occurred between 1967 and 1973, in which abortion restrictive laws in many states were repealed to allow the American women the right to have abortion (NAF, 2010).
Roe vs Wade Case
In 1973 Supreme Court made a landmark decision granting women the right to have abortions in the first three months, stating those rights belongs to the woman and her doctor, not the government. In this ruling, the remaining restrictive laws in all states were struck down to allow women seek for legal and safe abortions for experienced medical experts. The Roe vs Wade case was occasioned by the Texas state’s law, which prohibited abortions, except in circumstances where the woman’s life was at a risk.
The 1973 Supreme Court ruling upheld women rights for privacy and freedom to make decisions on birth control, especially with regard to bearing and rearing children. In this case, it was declared that women’s privacy was a fundamental social right, which had to be respected. As a result, women were granted the right to make decisions on whether to have children with the assistance of their medical doctors without state interference (NAF, 2010).
Current Legal Situation
The current legal situation seems to be quite different from the situation between 1973 and 1994 when the terms Roe were upheld. In 1995 and 2003, there have been several moves led by the Republican Party in the House of Representatives and the Senate to ban partial birth abortion, only to have it blocked by President Clinton and the Supreme Court. The Pennsylvania vs Casey case of 1992 seems to have attracted changes in the Roe provisions leading to enactment of abortion restrictive laws by some states. In 2007, the Gonzales v. Carhart case reversed the federal ban of abortion in different states, in support of the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed by the Congress during President George W. Bush Administration (Pew Forum, 2013). Consequently, anti-abortion laws criminalized the procedure up-to-date.
State by state legal status of abortion prohibition varies significantly with some states having relaxed regulations and others with stricter laws. Some states such as Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota intend to ban abortion upon the overturning of Roe, whereas 13 states uphold the pre-Roe ban laws. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington protect the right to abortion. On the other hand, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio have expressed intend to limit abortion (Guttmacher Institute, 2013).
Statistics indicate that more than 50% of the women obtaining abortions in the United States are under the age of 25 years. However, abortion rates are more common among minority women. Since 1973, 56,177,034 cases of abortion have been reported. It may appear extremely shocking to learn that 3,700 cases of abortion are reported daily in U.S. This translates to about 1.37 million abortions per year (Klick, 2004).
Epidemiological reports indicate reasons for abortion as the inability to rear children, especially by women with low socioeconomic status. In addition, some health complications of pregnancies necessitate abortion to safe the woman’s life (Bartlett et al. 2004). Other reasons are rape, mental disorders and incest. In most cases, the mother’s mental status occasion abortion, especially when the mother experiences mental disabilities (Reagan, 2010).
The public seems to have varied opinions with some states becoming increasing polarized on abortion, and lawmakers are passing tighter restrictions while some are seeking stronger legal protection for it. However, it is worth noting that these opinions are based on gender, age, party and religion.
In regard to the Islamic religion, the Shariah law, which governs the social life of Muslims, permits abortion on various circumstances (Syed, 2000). For instance, a doctor is allowed to carry out an abortion in case the mother’s life appear to be endangered. On the other hand, Christianity despises abortion on grounds that it is immoral.
On the other hand, liberalists regard abortion as the only solution to teenage pregnancies because most girls are not mentally mature to assume parental roles. In addition, abortion allows teenage girls to continue their education for sustainability in their future parenthood life.
In regard to the opinion of the political parties, the Democratic Party has been on the forefront in championing for the decriminalization of abortion, in which they cite economic and demographic implications as the justification for the legalization.
On the other hand, the Republican Party opposes legalization of abortion, citing the protection of human rights. They argue that the Roe provisions violate the Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution (Randolph, 2006).
Conservationists argue that abortion goes against the societal social norms and values. They claim that perpetuating abortion devalues the principal tenets of societal norms by disrespecting human dignity (Borgmann, 2009). As a result, the opinion of Conservationists is that abortion is a social vice which should be condemned.
It is evident that abortion influences the women’s health and social life more than it affects the society. As such, decision to terminate pregnancy seems to be associated to the women’s social rights and, the 1973 Supreme Court’s ruling reaffirms the women’s right to decide whether to have a child or not with regard to the individual’s reasons for abortion. Moreover, it is true to assert that, the legal provisions in most state laws, which permit abortion at certain medical risks, are relatively partial, especially with regard to the legal framework because; they perpetrate health inequity in the society. These laws violate the constitutional requirement that abortion should be restricted during the third trimester because; it is often fatal; thus, most women may wish to induce birth before the expected dates to have an abortion performed under the health risk legal provisions.