United States Supreme Court Rulings and Impact on Abortion Policy: Women’s Contraceptive Risks
Public discourse on abortion in the U.S. started way back in 1821 when a court of law in Connecticut, NY banned the sale of pregnancy termination chemicals to women. Afterward, a twist emerged following the Roe V. Wade Supreme court ruling that termed abortion unconstitutional. The first active engagement of the Federal government on abortion regulation was characterized by the enactment of the Hyde Amendment that discontinued Medicaid financial support for abortions. The U.S. government publicly declared its strict stand on abortion when President Reagan signed the Mexico City policy that restricted all USAID beneficiaries from performing abortion services in 1984. President Bill Clinton quashed the US policy on abortion in 1993, but it was later on enacted by Pre. George W. Bush. In the same way, Pres. Obama withdrew the policy on abortion in 2009, but again President Trump reenacted it after assuming office in 2017 (Melody, 2008).
Abortion is presently among the key contentious issues in the United States despite the fact that a 1993 court declaration termed the denial of access to abortion as unconstitutional. The Roe versus Wade ruling by the Supreme Court divided the public into equal opposing and supporting factions. As of now, abortion still causes a heated debate amongst the US political class and the general public. American citizens debate about abortion based on their cultural and spiritual affiliations. While doing these, the key factor considered is always about the rights of the fetus and its mother. In most cases, however, the consequences of abortion are sidelined during the gathering of public opinion regarding abortion. Most of the studies conducted regarding abortion policy tend to side with the consequences part of it. As a result, demography and public health scholars are considering options that may result in the change of abortion policy (Melody, 2008).
Supporters of abortion consistently argue that the U.S. government should not bar anyone from access to abortion because the right to do so outdoes the privileges given to a fetus. The continue their support for abortion by claiming that lack of any legal backing for abortion would leave women with the option of resorting to illegal means of pregnancy termination. On the other hand, the opponents of abortion reason base their arguments on the dignity and need for protection of human life. According to them life is a sacred gift and begins immediately after fertilization. Thus, any act of terminating a pregnancy is the same as killing an innocent person. Also, they encourage those opting to abort to consider the many childless couples who are prepared to adopt since abortion in itself causes a lot of suffering to the unborn (Melody, 2008).
Significance of the problem
Presently, there is a dire need for safe and legal abortion for women in the United States. It is undeniably true that during the times when abortion was criminalized, women resorted to unsafe methods of pregnancy termination leading to loss of lives. Women should be allowed to decide on whether to carry the fetus to its full development or not. However, in most cases, the fetus rights and the woman’s rights are put on the same weighing scale. This is a prejudicial treatment that questions the freedom women have. The 21st century has seen a huge increase in human population but with no increased resources. Economically, increased population is always associated with depletion of resources and a decreased quality of life. Therefore, just like any other birth control procedures, abortion can also be an economically viable method of birth and population regulation. Unrestricted access to abortion is correlated to irresponsible sexual behavior; therefore all stakeholders ought to reach a consensus on the morality of abortion, and only allowing it as a last resort to address the plight of women.
Purpose of the Abortion Policy
The purpose of the US abortion Act is to create a constitutional matter that restricts the authority of states to infringe a woman’s freedom to end a pregnancy so as to attain the same restrictions, as proclaimed to be a constitutional issue which is under severe standard of evaluation articulated in Roe versus Wade and quoted in later court cases after 1973 (Dorothy, 208).
Goals of the policy-desired end state
Abortion policy is widely accepted in the United States because it views abortion as a human rights and health issue that should have safe and secure universal access. This is based on the fact that many women, especially those affiliated to pro-life groups support abortion. Also, when abortion is strictly criminalized, women choose to go for risky abortions that risk, or end their lives prematurely.
Also, abortion policy is aimed granting women the autonomy to decide on the best time to have children, and if they should carry the pregnancy until its maturity. The policy gives them the choice to do this without actually having to risk their lives and health. Similarly, absence of abortion laws exposed women to unlawful discrimination and indictment by criminal law. Currently, abortion policy has helped really helped in the removal of pregnancy termination from criminal prosecutions.
Abortion Programs in the United States
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists trains abortion providers so as to avail safe and healthy abortion services to U.S. women. Additionally, the college ensured the inclusion of abortion education in medical school syllabuses. The efforts are aimed at ending stigmatization and inclusion of abortion as a vital element of women’s health care. Besides, the college is slowly working with the opponents of abortion to withdraw their support for laws that criminalize and restrict federal funding of abortion programs (David & Linda, 2014).
The U.S. policy on abortion is mainly explained by the institutional theory of public policy. Institutional theory illustrates the legitimacy of a decisions made by government institutions. Besides, the theory also supports the absence of conflicting decrees between the national and state governments (Michael & Scott, 2014). The Roe Versus Wade ruling by the Supreme Court marked the beginning of heightened public and political interest in abortion. As a result, abortion remained legal in the US. Some of the States have also enacted their own policies regarding abortion and the best time during which the pregnancy termination procedure should be done. What is more, Presidents like Trump have expressed their willingness to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. However, the executive lacks the mandate of stopping such a law; thus his only option is an appointment of anti-abortion justices to the jury, showing the dictates of institutional theory and the boundaries between different government institutions.
Impacts of Abortion on Society
Opponents of abortion have continuously related abortion to the act of inflicting pain and suffering to an innocent human being. Besides, they are publicly refer to it as murder. Also, women who have procured an abortion reported psychological stress and genetic abnormalities in their post-abortion conceptions. A more social impact of abortion is that it reduces the numbers of kids who can be adopted. Similarly, abortion increases irresponsible sexual behavior.
Abortion Policy Process Model
An assessment of the abortion laws passed in the United States between the year 2000 and 2010 suggests that the main sponsors of abortion bills comprised different genders of the legislators from different political parties. Furthermore, the impact of public ideologies and contributions by the lobby groups varied across the political divide during the agenda-setting stage of abortion policy.
The U.S. Judiciary has played an important part in the formulation and legitimation of abortion policy. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, some states criminalized abortion, and most of the citizens sort the pregnancy termination services illegally. The courts of law contributed to the formulation of this policy by quoting women’s reproductive and privacy rights. In fact, the right to abortion is sometimes referred to as the right to contraceptives which every American citizen is entitled to.
Many States passed laws that legalized abortion soon after the major Supreme Court ruling. By doing this, they implemented the abortion policy which is still a contentious issue in the US politics. Currently, health professionals, as well as religious factions, are in full support for abortion. Public opinion surveys have also indicated that most of the people support safe and secure pregnancy termination.
There are attempts to change the abortion policy in the U.S., but the courts have frustrated such moves. For instance, Colorado’s Amendment 48 proposed a new definition of life and these would only permit women to procure abortion when their health is threatened. Nonetheless, the courts backed it down.
David, A. G., & Linda, G. B. (2014). Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation.
Dorothy, E. M. (208). Abortion in the United States: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: Oxford.
Melody, R. (2008). Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide.
Michael, E. K., & Scott, R. F. (2014). Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. Sage.