Roe v. Wade -- Down, Not Out

by Melinda Tuhus | September 21, 2007 11:45 AM | | Comments (6)

Reva%20Siegel.jpgAre abortion rights in the U.S. soon to be a thing of the past? Some of the pro-choice movement's biggest legal brains hashed out that question before a standing room only crowd at Yale Law School.

The Thursday night forum was titled, "What remains of Roe v Wade? Reproductive Justice after the Federal Abortion Ban."

carhart%20audience.jpgPeople fighting for the same goal often embrace different tactics to achieve their ends, said Yale law prof Reva Siegel (pictured). Thus, anti-abortion forces split into two camps: absolutists ("Abortion is murder - period") and incrementalists ("Let's chip away at Roe v. Wade until it crumbles"). Those in the latter camp scored a major victory in the Supreme Court last spring. The pro-choice speakers and audience at the forum (some of whom are pictured) gathered to discuss the way forward.

The April Gonzales v. Carhart decision ruled that outlawing a certain second-trimester abortion procedure (medically called "intact dilation and extraction," labeled "partial birth abortion" by anti-abortion activists) is not unconstitutional. It thus upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress years earlier, which had been slapped down by three separate federal district court rulings because it did not contain an exception to allow abortion to protect the pregnant woman's health.

Siegel explained how the incrementalist anti-abortion movement used the language of feminism against choice: "Women should be protected from harm to them, and they should be protected from coercion, so, the argument goes, they need to be protected from abortion. This was the language of PTSD, and coercion and trauma and feminism all jumbled up with this claim."

She listed several examples of incrementalist chipping-away at abortion rights, such as mandatory dialogues, waiting periods, parental notice provisions. "What's powerful about this form of argument," she said, "is that in fact it's tapping on norms that everyone in this room shares - we're not looking for women to be coerced into doing something they don't want; we don't want things for women that are harmful to them." Click here to hear more.

Siegel said the purpose of the Abortion Ban Act was "to pick at the question of abortion at an uncomfortable spot, and to teach through education, to get into detailed public conversation about abortion practice -- a teaching process that would ultimately produce unease among persons who conceived of themselves as supportive, basically, of the right to choose."

She said, "The debate between absolutists and incrementalists is ongoing." Click here for more on how one anti-abortion group excoriated those who took credit for the Supreme Court victory.

eve.jpgEve Gartner (pictured) is an attorney for Planned Parenthood who argued the companion case to the Carhart case at the Supreme Court. She said the Carhart decision was a radical departure from Court precedence, because, among other things, it's the first time a restriction on abortion was ruled Constitutional despite the lack of a health exception (i.e., abortion in the second trimester has been legal to protect the health of the woman).

Gartner laid out a fairly dismal scenario going forward, but stopped short of total despair. She said she doesn't believe that Justice Anthony Kennedy -- who was the pivotal vote in the case and who laid out an argument that women must be protected from the regret that could follow an abortion- - would vote to overturn Roe v Wade completely. "He's not going to turn his back on it completely. He just has a very, very cramped and restrictive view of what the abortion right is. And so, I think it's not hopeless. I think public education is a key part of where we go from here, and politics is a key part of where we go from here. I think that over time, the Court's rulings on abortion have tended to mimic public opinion about certain restrictions."

sondra.jpgThe last speaker was Sondra Goldschein from the ACLU (pictured). She said in the past decade "over a thousand bills have been introduced across the country that have tried to place obstacles before women trying to access abortion, contraception, sex education." Thirty-five states have laws requiring minors to get permission from their parents or a court to access abortion; Medicaid in 32 states only cover abortion if it's the result of rape or incest or a woman's life is at risk; 31 states have passed laws that mirror the federal ban; seven states have passed laws that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will be immediately banned. Click here to hear about more legal hurdles.

Goldschein ended by inviting the law students in the room to get involved, or, in the case of members of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, which co-sponsored the forum, to continue to work on the issue.


Posted by: NNHC | September 21, 2007 4:31 PM

The Supreme Court has changed and will continue to change, as it reflects the view of many Americans towards abortion. It was the partial birth abortion that finally revealed the consequences of Roe vs Wade to the American public.

As far as harm to women, without a doubt, there is harm to women. No matter what abortion counselors, nurses, and doctors tell women, the fact of the matter is they can never conceal the truth from them that an abortion is a taking of human life, theirs and their child's.

It is outrageous that children, minors, can procur an abortion without informing their parents. Even on the most simplistic basis of parental consent for medical procedures, minors must not be left to make these decisions with strangers.

These so called Reproductive Justice advocates have simply lost touch with reality, blinded by their hubris. And so crumbles Roe v Wade.

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | September 26, 2007 8:45 AM

Why is it anti abortion people alway turn it into a moral thing? It is my body! I have the right to choose what to do with my body!!! Abortion deals with one's private life and should have nothing to do with the government. I personal do not believe the a fetus in the first trimester is a child. Grant it be it should never be turned into a form of birth control . But do we want women to have to go to the back alleys again. Because they will! Should a woman that is raped have that baby, should a womans who's husband beats her have that baby, should a young teenage have that baby, should an ill person have that baby...........I am not sure, but she should and does have the right to do with her body what she wants. And to be truthful I think partial birth abortions are needed, for many reasons mostly medical but also under those rear circumstances were a woman or a teen did not even know they were pregnant until it was to late. And to watch this right being slowly chipped away is a very scary thing for the next generation.

Posted by: NHHC | September 26, 2007 11:35 AM

Sorry, it is a moral thing. Passions around abortion are there because their are grave consequences at stake. Pursuit of happiness is not at the expense of another person.

Cederhill, your seemingly make an arbitrary determination that a fetus is not a child until after the first trimester. Then, you say a partial birth abortion is acceptable, undermining your first statement, as a partial birth abortion is the taking of a child's life.

Who makes the determination over what child lives or dies? I hope it is not you, as your reasoning makes no sense.

Posted by: dana b | September 26, 2007 1:52 PM

Control over our own reproductive choices is the cornerstone to all equality between the sexes. Without it, women will forever be excluded. With it, women have at least a chance, though no guarantee, to enter and remain part of this world that is still defined and run largely by men. Everyone should make reproductive freedom their own issue, because of its centrality to any just society.

Posted by: NNHC | September 27, 2007 11:59 PM

You may make whatever claims you wish. But for a growing number of Americans, you can not leave out the life of the unborn in your pursuit of your rights and your happiness.

You may decry the patriarchial culture, but you can not advance women's rights at the expense of another's life.

The "reproductive justice advocates" have shown the true consequences of Roe v Wade, it destruction of both the lives of women and their child. The insanity of abortions for minors without parental consent. And the most ludricous example of hubris, the defense of a partial birth abortion.

The hubris of the other side has taken this issue to an extreme, as so continues to crumble Roe v Wade.

Posted by: dana b | October 3, 2007 5:13 PM


Let me be very clear. You and your ilk are not the arbiters of when human life begins or who has the right to end human life, if indeed, that is what a fetus is -- "human" at whatever stage of development one names.

Access to abortion is a moral good. Abortion is a moral good. Individuals making their own decisions instead of being forced into bringing unwanted children into the world is a moral good. Oppressing women in the name of "humanity" is NOT a moral good.

What is clear is that your ridiculous, sanctimonious posts are part of a long tradition to pit women's lives against human lives. Such a dichotomy does not exist. You are an agent of destruction -- the destruction of individuals' lives who are brave enough to make decisions about their own lives but humble enough to let you make your own decisions too.

I have no patience for your disguise of crusader for little babies. You are simply the latest soldier in the war against women.

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