by Kellie Fiedorek
Absent from the recent political commentary—particularly the discussions surrounding the back-to-back Republican and Democratic National Conventions—is an honest account of what the law of the land currently is when it comes to abortion in the United States.
While the United States stands as a model for representative democracy and is viewed as a world leader in its advocacy for human rights, when it comes to protecting mothers and their preborn children, the United States joins the unlikely company of Canada, China, and North Korea as one of four nations (out of 195 nations in the world) with the most radical laws on abortion. The other 191 countries around the globe limit abortion at least after fetal viability, but the United States allows abortion for any reason during a woman’s pregnancy until the moment of birth.
The abortion lobby attempts to convey that women’s access to abortion in the United States is at risk, frequently lamenting that efforts to protect women’s health, ensure parents are involved in the medical decisions of their daughters, or certify that authorities report the statutory rape of minor girls is “taking us back to the dark ages.” The reality is that abortion is legal for any reason, at any time through all nine months of pregnancy.
This radically permissive law is the result of Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton, decided in 1973, in which seven Supreme Court Justices seized from every state the right to discuss and resolve the abortion issue legislatively by the people and their elected representatives. The Supreme Court’s improper “law-making” impelled America into the rank of one of four nations in the world that allow abortion-on-demand, even after fetal viability.
While some might be thinking, wait, what about Planned Parenthood v. Casey or Gonzalez v. Carhart, neither Supreme Court decision altered the basic constitutional framework of Roe and Doe. Roe legalized abortion at any time during pregnancy if the woman’s “life or health” is at risk, and Doe defined “health” without limit, even including a woman’s emotional “well-being.” Accordingly, seven individuals nullified the laws of all 50 states and decreed for the entire country that the Constitution would protect the “right” to take the life of a preborn child up until the moment of his or her birth.
Casey, although it facilitated an opening by which states can now pass positive protections for women and life-affirming legislation that can begin to regulate abortion, failed to overturn the central holding of Roe. While Gonzalez evidenced a possible shift in the Court’s willingness to give deference to regulations of abortion justified by medical evidence, Gonzalez only allowed the prohibition of a certain type of abortion procedure—partial-birth abortion. Both Casey and Gonzales failed to confront—and overturn—Roe and Doe’s central holding of abortion-on-demand. Hence, abortion continues to be legal today during any point in pregnancy.
Key to successfully protecting life—and working to remove the United States from the company of Canada, China, and North Korea and toward its position as a true defender of human rights—is understanding the current law of the land. So equipped, Americans will be able to call foul to the abortion lobby’s attempt to blur the debate and portray America as close to banning abortion entirely.
Efforts to blur this debate have been particularly rampant as discussions surrounding the recent Republican and Democratic National Conventions have demonstrated. What has not made it into the mainstream talking points is the truth—that abortion-on-demand, at every stage of pregnancy, is currently legal, a reality the majority of Americans do not endorse.
Margaret Carlson, a liberal columnist for Bloomberg News, aptly observed: “I hate to bring up abortion during the Democrats’ festivities, which are going so swimmingly, but I have a question. Why has the party removed the sentence ‘Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare’ from its platform? It was in the 2004 document but not in 2008’s or this year’s. Can’t Democrats just throw a crumb to the many millions who are pro-choice but not pro-abortion?”
Carlson’s question highlights a key point. The Democratic Platform’s unequivocal support for abortion-on-demand—although consistent with the current law of the land—is inconsistent with the views of the majority of Americans.
Illuminating are recent poll numbers. A 2012 Gallup poll reveals that 72 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal only in certain circumstances or not at all. Another poll showed that 63 percent of Americans—and 70 percent of women—support legislation that would prevent late-term abortions.
Regardless of one’s political affiliation, or whether one identifies as pro-life or pro-choice, in order to have a proper democratic debate about how America should protect life, the facts and realities must be recognized.
America’s abortion laws are among the most liberal in the world, and are notably inconsistent with the views of the vast majority of Americans. Furthermore, America’s abortion laws fail to take into account the negative impact that abortion often has on a woman’s physical and mental health and that these adverse effects increase exponentially as the pregnancy progresses.
Rather than perpetuating a game of politically-motivated, emotionally-charged discussions on the margins of the issue, let us recognize where the abortion debate currently rests and begin there. Only then can we begin to resolve the issue in a way that is worthy of our great democracy and affirms the rights and dignity of women and their preborn children.