Abortion law, from a pragmatic perspective

  • Article by: Michael Gerson , Washington Post
  • Updated: July 7, 2013 - 9:59 PM

If public sentiment prevailed, the stage of pregnancy would be key. Here’s why.

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pumiceJul. 7, 1310:24 PM

From the article: "Their real opponent is democracy, as state after state considers late-term abortion restrictions." Roe v Wade restricted late-term abortion to viability as determined by a doctor--not to a number of weeks determined by state legislatures--and limited those exceptions to instances where the health of the woman or her life was at risk. Michael Gerson’s characterization of current laws passed in state after state as "restrictions" does not recognize the difference between a restriction and a ban and does not mention that states are moving the number of weeks ever downward--from 24 to 20 to 12 to North Dakota's 6 to Senator Rand Paul's Life at Conception Act. Gerson does recognize that actual practice reflects public sentiment and supports Roe's trimester stage-of-pregnancy; that is, most abortions take place in the first trimester.

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pumiceJul. 7, 1311:22 PM

According to the Gallup Poll, “A solid majority of Americans [61 percent] believe abortion should generally be legal in the first three months of pregnancy." In other words, Michael Gerson, actual practice reflects public sentiment: 61.8% of abortions are performed in Weeks 1 to 8; 17.1% in Week 9 or 10; and 9.1% in Week 11 or 12. That's a total of 88% in the first trimester. (Guttmacher Institute)

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orpheus90Jul. 8, 1312:36 AM

The problem arises when sentiment subverts science. Consider the passage of "Fetal Pain" bills in various states that are trying to legislate abortion out of existence in all but name only. The so-called science behind the claims of fetal pain peddled by anti-abortion forces has largely been dismissed as junk by the legitimate science community, but that certainly has stopped states from putting such bills on their books, as ND did this past spring. And what anti-abortion activists can't sentimentalize, they sacralize. Consider the debates over morning after drugs like Plan B and the claim that a fertilized egg is both holy and worthy of human status. In the end, considering that roughly 1/4 of all children in the US live in poverty, all that sentiment and sanctification isn't worth a hypocritical hoot. I'd happily scuttle all of it just for a little common sense.

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wisebookJul. 8, 13 5:54 AM

The abortion battle is over. The choice side won. Anytime you can abort a pregnancy by taking a pill, the battle is over because as we have all seen America has seen a dismal failure at attempting to stem the flow of illegal drugs into this country. Anybody seen the government stop heroin, cocaine, meth, marijuana lately? Like most topics, the subject of abortion is not an easy one because both sides have their points. For example, what is the cost to America of a million abortions a year. Was one of those aborted the future scientist or doctor who found the cure for cancer? I get that the Pro-life side is trying to save babies. Good for you but ultimately when I support choice, I am trying to save women. But the polling data is all in how you ask the questions. If you ask an American, if the life of your mother or sister, or wife or daughter is in danger, should government decide her fate- most still agree that no the government that failed miserably in Hurrican Katrina, who sat on their hands while the Twin Towers fell, who seem to only be expert at filing through our phone records should not be the ones who decide whether she lives or dies. My mother, my sister, my wife, my daughter are eminently more qualified to make that decision.

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windigolakeJul. 8, 13 7:17 AM

wisebook: "Anytime you can abort a pregnancy by taking a pill..." The "morning-after" pill does not "abort a pregnancy." It simply prevents the egg from implanting on the uterine wall, which is when a pregnancy would otherwise occurs Therefore this pill is, in fact, a contraceptive. This may not make a big difference to the anti-woman, anti-choice crowd as they are often as much against contraceptive birth control as they are against abortion. Go figure.

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pitythefoolsJul. 8, 13 7:38 AM

wisebook: "Was one of those aborted the future scientist or doctor who found the cure for cancer?"

While I agree with your post, I disagree with this meme from the right. There are 7 billion people on this earth. The chance that any individual zygote will do anything truly unique is at best 7 billion to 1. I don't think we're at risk of missing out on the next Einstein.

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jgmanciniJul. 8, 13 8:20 AM

The big problem with most of the new abortion laws is not really that they ban late term abortions, it's all the other restrictions that effectively makes it impossible for the vast majority of TX women to choose first term abortions. Requiring ultrasounds, graphic videos, endless counseling and other costly, invasive procedures before a woman can legally have an abortion, making doctors get hospital admitting privilages, and forcing clinics to basically be outfittend as hospitals are the real issue. Pro-choice advocates are equally horrified by the likes of Gosnell. Maybe even more so, because if states continue to pass laws restricting abortions, the Gosnells of the world will flourish. These laws will not make abortions go away, they will drive them underground and many more women will die.

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sarahanneJul. 8, 13 8:27 AM

All through the health care debate it was about the government should not get in between the doctor and patient. The odds are any abortions that would be prevented will increase public assistance for that child. If the mother does not feel they can support a child it will have to be publicly supported. But a lot of the same people who want to force women to have a child do not want to support keeping the baby alive after it is born. Minnesota has done a good job in decreasing the number of abortions by protective efforts.

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kd5757Jul. 8, 13 9:08 AM

Very good article. It seems to me that a balance can be struck that most of us can live with.

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crystalbayJul. 8, 1310:29 AM

"But a lot of the same people who want to force women to have a child do not want to support keeping the baby alive after it is born."..............Which is why most of us who support choice refer to the so-called "pro-life" movement as only "pro-birth".

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