Roe v. Wade: Here Today, Maybe Gone Tomorrow — Part I

The Brett Kavanaugh hoopla of the past few weeks has re-lit the fires of the abortion debate. The Drive-by media along with others on the left propped up the false narrative in attacking the Supreme Court nominee that if confirmed, he would “probably” cast the deciding vote in any case before the Court regarding the overturn of Roe v. Wade. That threat rang totally hollow to those who understand the law and exactly what Roe did: it simply ruled in an appealed lower court finding allowing states to prohibit abortions. Roe v Wade with SCOTUS confirmation means that states do NOT have that right.

The truth about an overturn of Roe is this: should that ever occur, in doing so the Court is NOT prohibiting abortion, rather simply returning the right of the legality of abortion to the states. Abortions would remain legal in states that deemed it to be legal.

TNN is going to take this time of discussing abortion to look at its American roots. That means Planned Parenthood (PP) and its founder, too. There are many questions about PP’s purpose in its establishment and current operations: especially in light of taxpayer-funded grants from the federal government of about $500 million per year. 

This examination will be fact-based, will contain actual words from PP’s founder on the subject, and will look at statistics. We do NOT tell our partners what to think, rather give different facts for use in establishing educated positions on important issues. There is no doubt abortion in America is an important issue.

This story is a multiple chapter, fact-finding mission. Today we detail just how abortion came to be so common and so in demand in the U.S. 

Throughout this study, you will see and hear stories from medical professionals and from several who have experienced abortion personally. In tomorrow’s offering — Chapter II — you will meet Planned Parenthood’s founder and will read and hear from her personal writings her perspective on birth control, abortion, and even infanticide. 

None of this is for political purposes. There is no agenda here. This is to shine a light on every aspect of abortion, trying to keep it as emotionless as possible.

It is very difficult to think and speak objectively when emotions run so high in such a conversation. We at TruthNewsNet.org know just how great an issue abortion is. We can only imagine how many Americans have experienced all that accompanies abortion. But one thing we DO know: it affects millions, impacts millions more, and is probably the most contentious political issue in the U.S. today. To that end, it is important that ALL understand every aspect of such a critical issue so as to make informed decisions if and whenever faced with abortion personally, in one’s family, or among friends or relatives. 

Abortion’s American Origins and Stated Purposes

During the 1800s, all surgical procedures, including abortion, were extremely risky. Hospitals were not common, antiseptics were unknown, and even the most respected doctors had only primitive medical educations. Without today’s current technology, maternal and infant mortality rates during childbirth were extraordinarily high. The dangers from abortion were similar to the dangers from other surgeries that were not outlawed.

As scientific methods began to dominate medical practice, and technologies were developed to prevent infection, medical care, on the whole, became much safer and more effective. But by this time, the vast majority of women who needed abortions had no choice but to get them from illegal practitioners without these medical advances at their disposal. The “back alley” abortion remained a dangerous, often deadly procedure, while areas of legally sanctioned medicine improved dramatically.

The strongest force behind the drive to criminalize abortion was the attempt by doctors to establish for themselves exclusive rights to practice medicine. They wanted to prevent “untrained” practitioners, including midwives, apothecaries, and homeopaths, from competing with them for patients and for patient fees.

The best way to accomplish their goal was to eliminate one of the principal procedures that kept these competitors in business. Rather than openly admitting to such motivations, the newly formed American Medical Association (AMA) argued that abortion was both immoral and dangerous. By 1910 all but one state had criminalized abortion except where necessary, in a doctor’s judgment, to save the woman’s life. In this way, legal abortion was successfully transformed into a “physicians-only” practice.

The prohibition of legal abortion from the 1880s until 1973 came under the same anti-obscenity or Comstock laws that prohibited the dissemination of birth control information and services.

Criminalization of abortion did not reduce the numbers of women who sought abortions. In the years before Roe v. Wade, the estimates of illegal abortions ranged as high as 1.2 million per year. Although accurate records could not be kept, it is known that between the 1880s and 1973, many thousands of women were harmed as a result of illegal abortion.

Between 1967 and 1973 one-third of the states liberalized or repealed their criminal abortion laws. However, the right to have an abortion in all states was only made available to American women in 1973 when the Supreme Court struck down the remaining restrictive state laws with its ruling in Roe v. Wade.

The Roe case arose out of a Texas law that prohibited legal abortion except to save a woman’s life. At that time, most other states had laws similar to the one in Texas. Those laws forced large numbers of women to resort to illegal abortions.

Jane Roe, a 21-year-old pregnant woman, represented all women who wanted abortions but could not get them legally and safely. Henry Wade was the Texas Attorney General who defended the law that made abortions illegal.

After hearing the case, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans’ right to privacy included the right of a woman to decide whether to have children and the right of a woman and her doctor to make that decision without state interference.

After Roe v. Wade

The reaction to Roe was swift. Supporters of legal abortion rejoiced and generally felt their battle was won. However, others faulted the Court for the decision. Those opposed to legal abortion immediately began working to prevent any federal or state funding for abortion and to undermine or limit the effect of the decision.

Some turned to measures directly aimed at disrupting clinics where abortions were being provided. Their tactics have included demonstrating in front of abortion clinics, harassing people trying to enter, vandalizing clinic property, and blocking access to clinics.

As time passed, the level of anti-abortion violence escalated. Increasingly, clinic bombings, physical attacks, and even murders endanger abortion providers and create a hostile environment for women seeking abortions.

Abortion: Second Thoughts

Initially, the framework of Roe v. Wade was the basis by which the constitutionality of state abortion laws was determined. In recent years, however, the Supreme Court has begun to allow more restrictions on abortion.

For instance, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 established that states can restrict pre-viability abortions. Restrictions can be placed on first trimester abortions in ways that are not medically necessary, as long as the restrictions do not place an “undue burden” on women seeking abortion services.

Many states now have restrictions in place such as parental involvement, mandatory waiting periods, and biased counseling. Only the requirement that a woman involves her spouse in her decision was disallowed.

Timeline of Abortion in America

1821: Connecticut passes the first law in the United States barring abortions after “quickening.”

1860: Twenty states have laws limiting abortion.

1965Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision strikes down a state law that prohibited giving married people information, instruction, or medical advice on contraception.

1967: Colorado is the first state to liberalize its abortion laws.

1970: Alaska, Hawaii, New York, and Washington liberalize abortion laws, making abortion available at the request of a woman and her doctor.

1972Eisenstadt v. Baird Supreme Court decision establishes the right of unmarried people to use contraceptives.

1973Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision strikes down state laws that made abortion illegal.

1976: Congress adopts the first Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal Medicaid funds to provide abortions to low-income women.

1977: A revised Hyde Amendment is passed allowing states to deny Medicaid funding except in cases of rape, incest, or “severe and long-lasting” damage to the woman’s physical health.

1991Rust v. Sullivan upholds the constitutionality of the 1988 “gag rule” which prohibits doctors and counselors at clinics which receive federal funding from providing their patients with information about and referrals for abortion.

1992Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirms the “core” holdings of Roe that women have a right to abortion before fetal viability, but allows states to restrict abortion access so long as these restrictions do not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions.

1994: Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act is passed by Congress with a large majority in response to the murder of Dr. David Gunn. The FACE Act forbids the use of “force, a threat of force or physical obstruction” to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services. The law also provides for both criminal and civil penalties for those who break the law.

2000Stenberg v. Carhart (Carhart I) rules that the Nebraska statute banning so-called “partial-birth abortion” is unconstitutional for two independent reasons: the statute lacks the necessary exception for preserving the health of the woman, and the definition of the targeted procedures is so broad as to prohibit abortions in the second trimester, thereby being an “undue burden” on women. This effectively invalidates 29 of 31 similar statewide bans.

2000: Food and Drug Administration approves mifepristone (RU-486) as an option in abortion care for very early pregnancy.

2003: A federal ban on abortion procedures is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. The National Abortion Federation immediately challenges the law in court and is successful in blocking enforcement of the law for its members.

2004: NAF wins a lawsuit against federal abortion ban. Justice Department appeals rulings by three trial courts against a ban.

Summary

This may have been tiring to read: it’s very specific and very detailed. But before we can even attempt to discuss all of the details of an issue as it pertains to life today, we must be confident we have factually examined details of its past.

Many will question the wisdom of even attempting such a task in discussing such a controversial American experience. Wise or not, abortion is something that impacts tens of millions in the U.S. every year. No, there is no reputable report claiming tens of millions of abortions are performed in the U.S. annually. But abortion impacts far more than just the woman who has that abortion.

This conversation will include the ancillary impacts on immediate and extended family members. But even before we get to that specific discussion, we are going to share and discuss all of the elements that brought us to the abortion historical point we are in today. And to do that, we must first listen to the founder of Planned Parenthood or PP. PP today performs more abortions than any other abortion provider in the U.S. PP receives significant federal grant dollars, though maintaining those taxpayer dollars do NOT directly or indirectly fund abortion procedures, but only fund women’s healthcare initiatives.

This series of stories is probably going to be something you want to share, even download and print for those in your family you feel need to understand all we know about abortion history, its impact on the nation, how we got to this point, and where we are headed with it.

To that end, we will post a link at the bottom of the final story in this series that you can use to download the entire series.

We at TNN promise you to always give you facts and specific information so that YOU can make decisions about the important issues we and our family members either face today or may face tomorrow. There is nothing worse than being confronted by serious and often life-changing circumstances and not either knowing how to deal with them or where to go to get answers.

Thanks for joining us today.

Stay tuned: Chapter II tomorrow!

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