Abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy has been legal in America since 1973 due to the 7-2 decision reached within the Supreme Court case, Roe v Wade. However, with the infamously anti-abortion Republican party holding the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House, there has been renewed pressures and regulations placed on abortions at a national and state legislative level. Coupled with this has been a dramatic increase in the enactment of limitations on a woman’s right to an abortion. However, when one considers the decisions reached within Roe v Wade the legitimacy of the implementation of such limitations becomes questionable. Can abortion limitations be justified by pro-life supporters? And more importantly, can they be considered constitutional?
The primary debate between the pro-choice and pro-life supporters is whether the procedure of abortion should be considered a public or private matter. Pro-choice supporters argue that abortion is intrinsically a private matter due both to its relationship with bodily integrity and the individual’s right to freedom from governmental intervention in their private lives. The second argument is significant as it relates abortion with the right to privacy inferred within the fourteenth amendment and thus condemns any regulations and limitations as being unconstitutional.
Alternatively, pro-life supporters offer the arguably weak argument that abortion is a public matter due to the operation being conducted in the presence of a state certified medical practitioner in a regulated health facility. Therefore, they argue that increased access to abortion invariably requires more governmental regulation in order to maintain health and safety standards. Additionally, the maintenance of high health and safety standards will alleviate the risk attached to abortion, thus making it safer and lowering the chance of death.
However, it is worth noting that the continued implementation of abortion restrictions on both a state and national legislative level will likely force women into using less reputable practitioners without governmental regulation, which inevitably increases the risk of injury and death. Therefore, the argument that abortion limitations are justifiable due to both the procedure being a public matter and requirement to uphold safety standards is incorrect as the implementation of restrictions increases the threats to the woman’s health.
Equally, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade nationalised the issue of abortion, as well as drastically increased the judicial oversight given to legislation relating to privacy and abortion restrictions. In this sense, the enactment of limitations not only becomes unjust, but also unconstitutional. Primarily, as the supremacy of the Supreme Court’s decisions means that congress cannot interpret the constitution in a way contradicting the decision in Roe v Wade. Therefore, the argument that national and state level legislation limiting abortion is justified due to them both having a right and a responsibility to regulate can be considered unconvincing.
Therefore it becomes clear that there is minimal justification for the enactment of abortion limitations. Mostly this is due to both abortion being a private matter meaning it should be free of governmental intervention, and also the fact that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade legislatively outranks any decision reached on a national and state legislative level.