Abortion: The Question With No Answer
It matters little what your personal beliefs are with regard to the legality of abortion. As of this moment, Roe v. Wade rules in the United States and no state can limit a woman’s right to legal and safe abortion services up to the time of fetal viability, usually set at 24 weeks of gestation.
On December 1, the Supreme Court heard a significant challenge to Roe in its having to determine the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law to limit abortion to pregnancies under 15 weeks in duration. If the Court, decides that the Mississippi law is constitutional, it would substantively overturn Roe. This in turn would allow many state laws, some limiting access to abortion completely, some guaranteeing it, to kick in. These laws are already passed, but held in check by the Roe decision. It is also likely that other states like Texas will pass laws to make abortion virtually illegal. It is just as likely that Blue states will allow abortion in a fashion akin to what is currently in place thus setting up pockets of abortion oases around the country. The Red states will be out of the business of pregnancy termination no matter the reason including rape and incest, not to mention the well-being of the mother.
It appears that the current conservative majority on the Court simply wants to be out of the abortion business on the grounds that there is nothing in the Constitution speaking to this issue and so the Court’s posture is likely to be that this is a police power, not an enumerated one, and should be decided locally, probably on the state level. Privacy, autonomy and a right to determine what happens to one’s own body are not directly addressed in the Constitution and may no longer be federal matters when it comes to abortion.
That’s the quick summary of where we are and I have no idea where we will be when this case is decided in June of 2022.
The real problem here is the politicization of the abortion issue and in turn the politicization of the Supreme Court. What it appears the present Court wants is to be out politics. Good luck with that as long as they are all appointees of the elected President of the United States and approved for service by the elected Senate. They are political appointees and there is no way out.
There is also no way out of the abortion dilemma. The extreme pro-life groups believe that life starts at conception and therefore no abortion can be legal. The extreme pro-choice groups put the primacy of the mother’s decision making about her body ahead of any fetal rights and thus some would allow abortion at any time even after 24 weeks. For them it’s a civil rights issue.
Then there is the rest of us, confused, haunted by horrible stories from both sides, and basically agreeing with President Clinton who said abortion should be “legal, safe and rare.” My guess is that Mr. Clinton’s vision may be realized in some states like New York and California, but not in others like Texas. Of course how rare it is will depend on the sane use of contraception and whether or not abortion factories are established in Blue states to service the needs of near-by women in Red states.
Perhaps that’s the point of the Supreme Court’s current nine justices. The problem is that they cannot wash their hands of this and if, as I suspect, they allow the Mississippi law to stand because it is the states’ power to determine abortion rights, Roe will be dead and needy women wishing pregnancy termination even in the first trimester in Red states will be in grave danger.
Mr. Clinton’s stance is the only logical one. Everything else is personal religion, philosophy, belief and politics, but that’s how policy is made. It continues to be made by people who adamantly disagree on this issue. There is no good answer really.
Chief Justice Roberts might want to split the baby and keep Roe in place but move the time at which pregnancy termination is no longer allowed to 15 weeks from 24. I don’t think the conservative majority will allow him to do this. He may assign the writing of the decision to himself, but my guess is that Roe is gone. How you feel about that is determined by how you felt about Roe in the first place. There’s no easy answer.