Luckily, Oklahoma’s most recent attempt to ban medical abortions was halted last week when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of an appellate court’s decision upholding such abrasive laws. Yet, the Oklahoma law is only one of the many recent attempts in the States to chip away at the historic cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973.
On the national level, anti-abortion activists are currently seeking less restrictive laws than their state counterparts. Most recently, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has put his support behind a bill to ban all abortions after the 20-week (5-month) mark.
While this bill would not touch current national legislation on abortions before the 20th week of a pregnancy, it would tighten many states’ current laws on the right to seek an abortion. Currently, 41 states have some sort of restriction for the latest point a woman can have an abortion if her life is not in danger. Most of these limits are at the point of “viability” of a fetus with the most strict states drawing the line at 20 weeks.
Words like “viability” can be very tricky and tend to leave a subjectiveness that might allow those with different views to use the vagueness to their advantage. Thus, when trying to navigate through issues as complex as these, I find it best to swim toward the available absolutes.
In 2007, the “youngest surviving baby” was born at 21 weeks and 6 days into a pregnancy.
This birth was referred to as a miracle given the extremely high mortality rates for babies born even two weeks later in a pregnancy. Many would point to this date and argue for even stricter regulations than the 20 week mark for abortions, but one must keep in mind that this case was the exception, not the rule.
A 2006 study shows that only 1.5 percent of total abortions in the U.S. occur at 21 weeks or beyond.
Why patients elect to have an abortion is not always clear, but these statistics show that the choice to do so later in a pregnancy is far less common.
One possible reason for seeking a later abortion is the result of a test on fetus health. With many tests — including those on the functionality of a fetus’ heart — not being conducted until near the 20 week mark, it can be impossible for a mother to know the extent of the fetus’ deformation or illness before these vital tests.
These tests must be considered when arguing for a reform of abortion laws.
The statistics above show that the proposed bill is a restrictive one. Drawing the line at 21 weeks and 6 days would seem slightly more reasonable given its scientific significance, however, it would still federally restrict a woman’s ability to have an abortion and acts against the rulings of the 1973 Supreme Court cases. Also of note, while activists are supporting the 20 week rule now, they are hoping openly that it will lead to further restrictions in the future.
Quite simply, providing an option for abortion is a necessity in our society. The choice to carry a pregnancy is an individual one that every woman has the right to make. Thus, any law that restricts abortions should be scrutinized to the fullest extent. Sen. Graham’s bill is no exception and at the end of the day it is just another attempt to slowly chip away at a woman’s right to choose.