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Thirty years of Roe v. Wade Posted:01.15.03
The upcoming thirty year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States is expected to highlight the debate over whether the decision should be upheld or overturned.
Rallies and marches are planned for Jan. 22, the 30-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.
While thousands prepare to reflect on Roe v. Wade's significance, the day is expected to turn up the volume on the debate between those who are pro-choice -- who support keeping abortions legal, and those who are pro-life -- who oppose keeping abortions legal.
In 1970, Norma McCorvey assumed the pseudonym Jane Roe and was the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging anti-abortion laws in Texas. After losing on the state and appeals court levels, the case went to the Supreme Court. The high court delivered a monumental ruling on Jan. 22, 1973, voting 7-2 to overturn the Texas law prohibiting an abortion and legalizing the practice in all 50 states.
The Court ruled that in the first trimester (about 13 weeks) of pregnancy, the state couldn't interfere with a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Instead it said, "the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician."
In the next stages of pregnancy, the decision said, "the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health."
Over the years, pro-life and pro-choice advocates have argued, sometimes violently, about the ruling -- about whose right it is to make the decision, and whether or not an embryo should be protected.
Will recent policy changes affect the decision?
In recent months, there have been a number of measures by the Bush administration dealing with abortion rights. President Bush has steadfastly maintained that the Republican Party must "maintain our pro-life position." The new Republican-controlled Congress will make it easier to pass legislation challenging abortion laws.
The first piece of abortion legislation expected to pass through the 108th Congress bans a type of medical procedure opponents call "partial birth" abortion. The legislation has already passed through the House of Representatives.
With the reintroduction of the partial birth abortion ban legislation in the Senate, we have the opportunity once again to right a wrong," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said. "We must heed the will of the American people as they call on us to listen not to political advisors or radical interest groups, but to our conscience."
An advisory committee formed by the Bush administration categorizes embryos and fetuses as human research subjects, protecting embryos in medical and scientific research that some scientists say helps with finding cures for diseases like Alzheimer's.
Pro-life advocate Kenneth Connor of the Family Research Council says the decision should finally put an end to the debate over whether embryos are human and would apply to abortion as well.
The Bush administration also authored a new regulation that provides health coverage to the unborn through a federal-and state-funded program for low-income children.
Supporters believe the regulation will help women because it now covers a woman while she is pregnant. But Judith Lichtman who heads the National Partnership for Women and Families, calls the new regulation a "sham" and, since it creates legal status for the unborn, says it would violate the protections established in Roe v. Wade.
She says that if the government were not trying to take away the rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade it would have provided health coverage for low-income pregnant women instead of their fetuses.
The Future of Roe v. Wade
Currently, Supreme Court justices are split 5-4 in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade. But it is possible that one or two justices could retire during Mr. Bush's presidency and be replaced by those who hold a pro-life opinion.
President Bush has already nominated a number of conservative judges to lower federal courts. Federal judges are pivotal in the abortion debate because they can help interpret abortion laws.
Nonetheless, Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin says, many pro-life politicians would rather chip away at Roe. V. Wade, than challenge it directly.
"A lot of pro-life Republicans, including the president in 2000, were able to win the votes of pro-choice independents and Republicans by convincing them that they did not really represent a threat to a woman's right to choose," Garin told The New York Times. "The closer the pro-lifers get to attacking the core of Roe v. Wade, the bigger the political fallout will be."
-- By Raven Tyler, NewsHour Extra
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