GUARDIAN: Another State Tries to Re-open Roe v. Wade

By Nancy L. Cohen, 04/18/2013

If you enjoyed this week’s supreme court gay marriage marathon, then get ready for the sequel. Coming soon to the supremes, thanks to a slew of radical state laws: women’s right to legal abortion, relitigated.

On Tuesday, Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota signed a ban on abortion after the detection of an embryonic heartbeat, evident as early as six weeks into pregnancy through (you guessed it) transvaginal ultrasound. That was just one of three far-reaching anti-abortion bills he signed. Earlier this month, a similar fetal heartbeat bill became law in Arkansas, after the GOP-controlled legislature overrode the Democratic governor’s veto. KansasMississippi, and other states are also considering fetal heartbeat bills; so-called “personhood” measures are advancing in North Dakota and other states.

The practical impact on women’s access to abortion in these states will be devastating. But that’s not the ultimate point of the laws. In his formal statementNorth Dakota‘s governor called the fetal heartbeat bill “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v Wade”. The sponsor of a similar bill in Ohio was more direct:

“There is a crack in the door in Roe v. Wade and we’re going through it.”

Forty years after a woman’s legal right to abortion was enshrined in the US, the real object is to goad the supreme court into reconsidering its 1973 decision.

It’s no secret to anyone who followed the 2012 elections that the right and the GOP hope to overturn Roe v. Wade. With several laws now teed up for the supreme court’s consideration, the good news for those who support reproductive freedom is that Roe has broad support. According to the 2012 exit polls, 59% of voters favored legal abortion. A recent NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll (pdf) showed 70% opposed to overturning Roe.

Yet, as we’ve seen from the same-sex marriage cases, part of the battle will be over how Americans and the justices themselves assess the appropriate role for the court in divisive social issues. For that reason, with abortion potentially headed back to the court, it’s time for those who support reproductive freedom to challenge the pervasive misunderstanding of Roe’s political and social impact. Read more at the Guardian.


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Nancy L. Cohen