Efforts to curb abortion proliferate at state level
Abortion foes try to chip away at Roe v. Wade, most recently through laws focusing on 'personhood' of a fetus.
(Page 2 of 2)
"Now, you can't get an abortion in Texas after 20 or 24 weeks, no matter what," says Peggy Romberg, CEO of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, who says her organization decided not to challenge the law since the impact was so minimal.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Even the parental consent bill, she says, means very little once parental notification is already a law. Still, she says, "we see the erosion bit by bit.... I think the assaults have an overall effect I find disheartening."
Even abortion opponents admit that some of the restrictions have little real effect. But they still see them as important in keeping the issue public, establishing legal precedents that acknowledge a fetus as an individual, and raising awareness of the fetus's personhood for Americans who may be undecided about abortion.
"Even in cases where it may be more symbolic or less effectual in saving lives of unborn children, we have to recognize it has an effect in public relations and helping people to think these things through," says David Bereit, a program director for the American Life League.
Mr. Bereit acknowledges a flip side as well: Incremental gains - like parental consent - could jeopardize the long-term goal of outlawing all abortions. "If abortion is wrong and truly kills an unborn child, it shouldn't matter if a parent says yes or no," he says. "Could it give more legitimacy to abortion in the eyes of the law?"
One tactic gaining popularity is "informed consent" - laws that require abortion seekers to be notified about pain the fetus may experience and medical and psychological risks to the mother. Some tell doctors to cite an increased risk of breast cancer, even though most doctors say no such risk exists. Planned Parenthood recently filed suit against a South Dakota law that requires women to sign a statement saying, among other things, that the abortion will terminate the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being."
Critics of these laws aimed at getting women to think of the fetus as an individual - the latest of which is the ultrasound requirement - believe this amounts to legislating what should be the realm of medicine. "It's putting politicians' beliefs into a doctor's office," says Ted Miller, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America. "These proposals are coming from people very hostile to individual privacy."
Abortion opponents counter that anything that gets women - and the law - to recognize a fetus as a person is a step in the right direction.
"The dialogue has gotten so heavily and strongly on, 'This is a woman's right to choose' - let's talk about, 'This is a human being we're dealing with here,' " says Brian Newell, state and local coordinator for the Family Research Council. "We're encouraged to see this type of pro-life action out there, but our ultimate goal is to get to a point where abortion is no longer a reality."