. An Illegal Abortion
strictions for women who choose to have an abortion. The most common restrictions include waiting periods, mandatory counseling, parental involvement requirements, and public funding limitations.
In July 1994, the Supreme Court upheld a decision (Madison v. Women’s Health Center, Inc.) barring antiabortion demonstrators from getting within 36 feet of an abortion clinic. This ruling was sparked by the fatal shooting of Dr. David Gunn outside of his abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida (Word, 2003). Fewer doctors perform surgical abortions today than in the early years after the Roe v. Wade decision, probably due to increased death threats.
Because of the controversy over abortion, medical schools have been targeted to eliminate surgical abortion training in residency programs. Even so, U. S. medical schools have worked to maintain this teaching. As of 1996, there are standard requirements for the inclusion of abortion training as a part of obstetrics and gynecology residency programs (Almeling et al., 2000). Even so, many physicians opt not to perform surgical abortion, and this, coupled with the fact that there are fewer abortion clinics today, has decreased the availability of surgical abortion.
Overall, Louisiana has the most restrictive abortion laws. Louisiana has attempted to ban all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, and has imposed many restrictions on abortion (Henshaw, 1998). New York, California, and Washington State have fought the hardest to protect their abortion laws. Today pressure exists in the United States to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. This bitter battle between the pro-choice and pro-life factions can be seen in picketing and demonstrations outside abortion clinics.
Legal Versus Illegal Abortions
Since the legalization of abortion in the United States in 1973, the number of women’s deaths from abortion have declined dramatically—even though the actual number is difficult to determine because so many abortion-related deaths were not noted on death
certificates (Gold, 1990). Pro-choice supporters believe this is directly due to easier accessibility of abortion. They believe that the legalization of abortion ensured sanitary conditions and immediate treatment for infections.
On the other hand, pro-life supporters believe that prior to Roe v. Wade, women were more careful about becoming pregnant. Because abortion was not a legal right, many women used birth control consistently, and if they got pregnant, they gave birth. The legalization of abortion, according to the pro-life camp, has caused women and men to become irresponsible about sexuality and contraceptive use. By making abortion illegal, pro-life supporters believe that people will become more responsible about contraception and may delay sexual activity.
Question: In the future, is abortion going to be illegal?
The Supreme Court may eventually overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. Should this happen, each state will be able to determine its own abortion policies. It is anticipated that if Roe is overturned, many states will quickly ban abortion or enforce existing bans. Some states have put into effect antichoice measures, further restricting a woman’s right to choose (National Abortion Rights Action League, 2003a; this would include restrictions such as waiting periods or parental/spousal notification policies). These changing restrictions often work to block access to abortion at the state level. In the meantime, if justices appointed by President George W. Bush are pro-life, it is very possible that Roe will be overturned.