In Roman times, abortion and the destruction of unwanted children was permissible, but as civilization aged, it seems that such acts were no longer acceptable by rational human beings. In 1948, Canada along with most other nations in the world signed a declaration of the United Nations promising every human being the right to life.
Abortion is defined as “a fatally premature expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the womb” (American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, 1985). Or the termination of pregnancy before birth, resulting in, or accompanied by, the death of the fetus.
Abortions must be conducted before the end of six months, or the fetus will leave the womb and it would be considered a premature birth. There are two types of abortions. One is spontaneous and the other is induced. If the fetus weighs less than 18oz or is less than 20 weeks into the pregnancy, it is usually considered an abortion. Spontaneous abortions are known by another name, miscarriages. These usually occur during the first three months of pregnancy. It is estimated that 25% of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. The second form of abortion is induced abortion. This is the deliberate termination of the fetus.
There are four main types of induced abortions. The first takes place up to 12 weeks. It is called vacuum aspiration. This is where a tube attached to a vacuum is inserted into the uterus and sucks out the embryo and all other material. The second type takes place after the 15th week and is called saline infusion. Here, the doctors replace a little fluid with a salt solution. This causes the uterus to contract. The fetus is then expelled. The third type is a hysterectomy. This is a similar procedure to a cesarean section. The only difference is, in this operation, is that the cut is smaller and lower. The fourth type is available in the first fifty days. It is a drug called RU-486.
The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment states “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” which means that the state can’t take a person’s life, at whatever state or age being, and the states can’t say no to protecting anyone in their territory to the extent of their laws. A person who is with child and wants an abortion, should be denied under that amendment because the life of the child shouldn’t be taken away. But the 9th Amendment clearly states “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This means that there are rights that we have as citizens that are so obvious they don’t need to be in the Constitution.
The doctrine of the Substantive due process holds that due process clause not only required “due process,” or basic procedural rights, but that is also protects those rights. “Substantive” rights are generally rights that reserve to the individual the power to possess or to do certain things, despite the government’s desire to the contrary. These are rights like freedom of speech and religion. “Procedural” rights are special rights that dictate how the government can lawfully go about taking away a person’s freedom or property of life when the law gives them the power to do so. A person is able to receive an abortion, because the Constitution doesn’t say otherwise.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned state laws prohibiting abortion in 1973 in the case Roe V Wade. The case started back in the state of Texas. This was where a single pregnant woman brought a class action challenging the constitutionality of the Texas abortion laws. The main theory that Roe argued before the Supreme Court was the fact that outlawing abortion was infringing on a woman’s right to privacy. These rights are covered under the ninth and fourteenth amendments of the constitution. The Supreme Court in a decision five to four held that abortion was covered. The Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman a right to abortion during the entirety of the pregnancy and defined different levels of state interest for regulating abortion in the second and third trimesters. The court for the first time legalized abortion nationwide. The court based its 7-2 ruling on a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.
In the case Dee V Bolton (1973) the court struck down by a 7-2 vote restrictions on facilities that could be used to perform abortions. The decision gave rise to a new kind of medical facility; the abortion clinic. The court held further that a state cannot affect a woman’s right to abortion by prohibiting access to the means of carrying out her decision. Rather than settle, the debate on the court’s decisions caused a variety of governmental actions on the federal, state, and local levels designed to nullify their rulings or hinder their effectuation.
Abortion is legal in the United States for these reasons:
1. To save the life of the mother.
2. To preserve the physical and mental health of the mother.
3. For the cases of incest or rape.
4. When unborn children have medical problems or birth defects.
5. For social and/or economic reasons.
(e.g. if the mother cannot support the child)
6. Available on demand, no reason needs to be given.
On November 5, 2003, President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion bill, which is described in the media as prohibiting late-term abortions. The real goal of this legislation is to begin the process of outlawing all abortion procedures, even in the early stages of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court upheld a state law requiring anti-abortion demonstrators to stay at least 8 feet away from anyone entering or leaving medical facilities. Justices declared that the Colorado law designed to protect the privacy rights of patients and staff members at the clinics did not violate the constitutional free-speech rights of the protesters.
“Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court in Hill v. Colorado that the law’s restrictions on speech-related conduct were constitutional, and states have a special justification to avoid potential confrontations causing trauma to patients at health care facilities,” (CNN.com). Because of this, the law wants to balance a person’s right to protest with another person’s right to receive or give medical services, including abortion. Hill V Colorado marked the third time the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed a case involving sidewalk activities of abortion foes.
Since 1993, juries have convicted three men and one woman of murder or attempted murder of clinic workers. Navy veteran Michael Griffin was the first activist to kill. On March 10, 1993, he broke away from other anti-abortion picketers outside the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic, pulled a gun from his pocket, and shot David Gunn, a doctor working at the clinic. A jury convicted him in less than three hours and the judge sentenced him to life in prison. Rachelle Shannon traveled to Kansas to protest at the Women’s Health Care Services clinic in Wichita and in Aug. 19, 1993, she shot Dr. George Tiller twice, but didn’t kill him. The jury quickly convicted her of attempted murder and she was sentenced to 11 years in prison. John Salvi III went on a shooting spree in Brookline, Mass., on Dec. 30, 1994, killing two people and wounding 5 others. His defense said Salvi was a paranoid schizophrenic who did not understand his actions at the time of the shooting. He was convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He committed suicide in his cell nine months later.
A young girl in California took the abortion pill (RU-486) on September 10th and died on September 17th. The California Department of Health Services and the FDA are conducting separate investigations. The clinic that prescribed the drug continues to insist that it is safe and has accepted no responsibility for the girl’s death, because the pill is approved by law. A spokesman for Danco Laboratories admitted that mifepristone, RU486’s official name, had resulted in about 400 reports of adverse events, ranging from excessive bleeding to bacterial infections, since the drug was made legal in the United States. Since legalization of the pill in the United States was first proposed, the Right to Life movement has opposed the use of this dangerous abortion pill.
U.S. Representatives introduced “Holly’s Law;” technically known as the “RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2003.” The FDA has failed to carry out its mission of ensuring RU-486 is a safe and effective abortion drug regimen. Planned Parenthood says the FDA protocols are inconsistent with the latest medical research on the abortion drug and it admits Patterson’s instructions on taking RU-486 were different from the FDA guidelines. Though dangerous, the drug remains popular.
Edles, Allison. “Medical Abortion Procedure Appropriate as a Safe Way to End a Pregnancy.” The South End. Online; October 2003. Available: http://www.southend.wayne.edu/days/2003/October/1072003/oped/abortion/abort ion.html (11-21-03)
Lewis, J. Abortion Law Development: A brief Overview.” Online; Almanac of Policy Issues. 28 January, 2001. Available: http://www.policyalmanac.org/culture/
Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World. Online; 15 April 2002. Available: http://www.pregnantpause.org/lex/worldo2.htm (11-21-03)
Abortion Law Homepage. Online; Constitutional Law. 1996. Available: http://members.aol.com/abtrbng. (12-1-03)
FindLaw. Online; U.S. Constitution: Ninth Amendment. Available:
LifeNews.Com Online; FDA “Aggressively Investigating” Holly Patterson’s Abortion Drug Death. 3 November 2003. Available: http://www.lifenews.com/nat183.html