- Bridget Dowd
What's Going On with Abortion Legislation in 2020
Abortion is an issue that has divided Americans across conflicting religious affiliation, political views and moral codes. On one hand, many people are strongly opposed to abortions because they believe that mothers are disregarding their child’s life, especially when many people who are unable to conceive would happily adopt the child. On the other hand, others adamantly believe in the right to access legal and safe abortions, ever since it was ruled on by the Supreme Court in the infamous case, Roe v. Wade, in 1973. This ruling secured abortion as a fundamental liberty right in the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment. American’s diverse thinking on the topic of abortions stems from one question - Is the topic of abortion a matter of morals? Or is it a matter of law? Many people would side with the former, as abortion is an extremely controversial practice that infringes upon the morals of many religious groups. Others who side with the Supreme Court’s ruling do not wish to see the laws in-place change. What many Americans don’t realize is that fractionated issues like abortion aren’t anything new. According to the National Abortion Federation, abortions in the United States date back as old as the founding of the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. It wasn’t until the 19th century that laws restricting abortion practices gained momentum due to the dangers that were prevalent with 19th century medical practices. (It is worth noting that while abortions were extremely dangerous back then, only 0.23 percent of modern abortions result in major complications according to Advancing New Standards on Reproductive Health).
Despite the long-standing history of abortion practices, it is still a dividing issue that persistently separates Republicans and Democrats in the political arena. However, according to the Pew Research Center, sixty-one percent of Americans believed that abortions should be legal in all/most cases in 2019. Despite this, lawmakers in predominantly Republican states have adamantly opposed access to abortions. On June 19th, 2020, lawmakers in Tennessee passed a bill through the state Senate that would restrict abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the fetus. The strongly held belief in the life of the fetus was reflected in this bill, successfully preventing women in Tennessee from terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, abortions restrictions such as the one in Tennessee could have the power to disproportionately affect women of color. According to USA Today, a startling 47 percent of people of color live in poverty in the United States. Similarly, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, these people living in poverty are most likely to get their health insurance from the government, which traditionally doesn’t cover the cost of abortions in their plan. Abortion bans like the one that passed just last month, along with the startlingly real percentages of impoverished women in America, are forcing Americans to grapple with the realization that abortion bans will unjustifiably affect women of color.
Women of color in both Tennessee and Louisiana would be impacted by new abortion restrictions. In Louisiana, a proposed law would require doctors performing abortions to have admittance rights to a nearby hospital. This law would have closed all of the abortion clinics in Louisiana except for one in New Orleans. Once again, this issue had two equally important sides. Many people insisted that abortion clinics must be near a hospital because of the possible complications associated with the procedure. The opposition felt that it was not medically necessary because of the small percentage of women (0.23 percent) who experienced complications in their abortion. On June 29th, the Supreme Court ruled against this law, effectively ensuring that Louisiana women can continue to have access to legal abortions throughout the state. According to npr.org, the law would have left 10,000 women seeking abortions annually in Louisiana under the care of just one abortion clinic.
Choosing a stance on abortion is a difficult, politically-charged decision. Hypothetically, if men were the child-rearing gender, forced with the difficult moral decision to terminate a pregnancy, would abortion access be as challenged and restricted as it is today? Or do the opposers to abortion credit legitimate morals to these restrictions? In other words, is abortion access a debate of religious and moral ethics and standards in a modern society? Or is abortion access strictly a matter of women’s burden of pregnancy in a patriarchal world?