On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled that our constitutional right to privacy "is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy," thereby making abortion legal under Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, the battle over reproductive rights has proven to be one of the most divisive issues facing the nation, with supporters and opponents at odds over the extent to which abortion should be legal in the United States.
As the ruling turns 40, the majority of Americans believe the ruling should stand, with 7 in 10 Americans supporting the Roe v. Wade decision. This marks the highest level of support since 1989, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reveals, attributing the record high support for abortion to "more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans." Tweet this stat: Tweet
In response to the growing support for Roe v. Wade, California proposed a bill that would expand early abortion providers in the state. In an attempt to promote healthy and legal abortions, the bill, unveiled Tuesday, "would revive last year's push to expand abortion access by allowing nurse practitioners to perform non-surgical early abortions."
Among those supporting the legislation are Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (who authored the bill), and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, chair of the Women's Caucus. In conjunction with the push for an increase in abortion providers in California, a UC San Francisco study suggests that abortions performed by trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives were "clinically equivalent." Follow @VoteHannahBeth"Almost seven in 10 respondents say there are at least some circumstances in which they don't support abortion."
While attitudes nationwide are shifting on the issue of abortion, it is important to note that support is not absolute.
"Almost seven in 10 respondents say there are at least some circumstances in which they don't support abortion."
Feeding off of this uncertainty, many states across the country have sought to limit abortion through restrictive legislation as opposed to proposing an outright ban.
"I don't need a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe," says president of Americans United for Life, Charmaine Yoest. "Clinic regulations do actually challenge Roe."
Alabama lawmakers, for instance, look towards 2013 with hopes to dismantle Roe v. Wade "a piece at a time." In the last two years, Alabama passed over 90 laws restricting abortion in some way and is now down to one abortion clinic in Birmingham. Defining fetuses as children, the Alabama Supreme Court opened the door to a whirlwind of criminal prosecutions against women under the state’s chemical endangerment law.
And despite the shift in national opinion, Mississippi continues to restrict abortion in the state, as the last remaining abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, struggles to remain open. Similarly, South Dakota has made attempts to restrict abortion through legislation, requiring a 72 hour waiting period and an anti-choice lecture before an abortion is performed.
Whether or not state issued restrictions reflect the shifting attitude of Americans on the issue of abortion, the toxic division between supporters and opponents across the country has sparked national dialogue over the power of states to regulate abortion.
Should abortion be a state or federal issue?