Ever since the landmark court ruling of the Roe v. Wade case, the abortion debate has taken a whole new level in the United States’ political system. This is indicative of the role of politics in shaping America’s constitutional values. The abortion debate is laden with a lot of controversy and debates. To start with, abortion debates, and more so those linked to the legal consequences of abortion laws, are mainly led by advocacy groups. Such groups are usually classified into two groups, pitting the pro-choice group (those who support legal abortion) against the pro-life group (those who oppose legal abortion). The decision on whether to support the pro-choice movement or the pro-life movement is largely based on one’s value system. The key issue is whether the mother has the right to choose via-a-vis the right of a child to chose, and hence the pro- life and pro-choice concepts. One might then ask, what is the role of the government in this debate?
Some pro-choice critics argue that the government’s decision to acknowledge the right of the mother in choosing life over the right of the child effectively removes the absolute rights of the child. In arriving at this decision, critics argue that the government should not be seen to exercise excessive powers in choosing to restrict the rights of the unborn child (Solinger 195). Furthermore, a candidate’s position regarding the issue of abortion effectively influences their voting pattern. This entails who to vote for, as well as how to vote.
A number of issues are usually examined while discussing the controversial issue of abortion. Some of these issues are the health condition of the mother, and her financial state. However, the key element in this debate is if the child is capable of making its own decision, or whether the mother has the right to make such a decision on its behalf.
Abortion was declared a constitutional right in 1973 by the US. Supreme Court in the famous Roe v Wade case. The Supremo Court’s ruling on the Roe v Wade issue helped to propel abortion to a national issue. In addition, women’s movements also gained national prominence. Most of the states that had previously opposed abortion also appear to relax their position on the matter, schooling instead to impose limited restriction (Solinger 103). The 1974 Abortion Control Act highlighted the idea of consent and state funding for abortion. The act further stipulates that the woman seeking an abortion ought to be briefed fully about the procedure. Furthermore, prior to procuring the abortion, the act required that the woman first seek consent from her husband. In the case of a minor, then her parents were required to give consent.
The other key provision of the act forbid state funding for “unneeded and unnecessary abortions” (Solinger 104). Redistrictive issues and morality are the key characteristics of the argument on public funding of abortion. Those opposed to public funding of abortion mainly argue from a moral point of view. They further argue that as a human being, the fetus needs protection. In addition, opponents also maintain that it is not right to use taxpayers’ money to fund an activity that takes an innocent life. For those people who claim that they cannot afford the cost of an abortion, opponents argue that they should explore other alternatives, like adoption.
The decision by the Supreme Court to legalize abortion effectively changes American politics and law. By legalizing abortion, the Supreme Court not only ushered in a national public debate, but also changes political discussion on the abortion policy. In addition, there was a swift emergence of pro-life movements in the country. More importantly, the federal government was now mandated to develop abortion policies. State governments also became increasingly reactive in this matter, and they formed a habit of enacting measures aimed at negotiating a certain degree of control and autonomy, in addition to testing “the limits of the Supreme Court decision” (Ginsberg 47).
Abortion, along with religion, defines modern-day American politics. Pro-choice advocates recognize women as moral agents with a capacity to make ethical and complex decisions. As such, the government should be seen to enhance the capacity of people to make informed and responsible decisions, as opposed to restricting it. On the other hand, the pro-life choice camp is mainly made up of Christian Coalition groups, along with other abortion opponents. According to Kramlich (2003), this group would want to see the government take an active role in ratifying public morality. Such laws are expected to reduce the ease with which people can access family planning services and along with it, abortion services.
Sexuality education is a classic example of how the two approaches to the issue of abortion differ. The anti-choice approach would want a situation whereby schools do not offer comprehensive sexuality education programs. The pro-choice camp emphasizes on abstinence and prevention of pregnancy (Ginsburg 19). Pro-choice proponents wish to minimize the need for abortion as they are convinced that abortion is indicative of the inability of society to deal with fundamental health issues.
Indeed, the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate has caused major rifts with the key parties in US politics namely, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Advocates of abortion rights have started popularizing policies aimed at not only minimizing the incidence of abortion, but also protecting a woman’s decision to choose to procure an abortion as it is her constitutional right anyway.
Pro-choice movements are faced with a daunting task of convincing most Americans who, although they are unsure about abortion, would want to see legal, safe, and accessible abortion services in the United States (Cornell University n.p.). This should be a lesson to the pro-choice leaders who need to acknowledge that there are a lot of complex moral considerations that the woman has to weigh before making the choice, and not the government.
Although abortion politics in the United States remains a volatile issue, nonetheless, according to a Gallup poll conducted between June and July 2011, it emerged that both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” Americans generally agree on over 50% of the key abortion policy issues that Gallup sought to test (Herring 11). The key elements of the policy are desisting from procuring late-term abortions, and prioritizing on the health of the mother. The policy also aims at briefing the woman and her family, before carrying out the abortion. Although these issues are less likely to impress both pro-life and pro-choice camps, on the other hand, their implementation would play a significant role in minimising the scope of the debate on abortion.
The United States as a nation hinges on the fundamental ideas of individualism, freedom, as well as moral integrity. The ferocious debate on abortion has without any doubt acted as a litmus test to the issue at hand. As a result, a major rift now exists between the pro-life camp on the one hand and the pro-choice camp on the other hand. Even as Roe vs. Wade appeared to have won the battle for the pro-choice camp, in addition to reducing the ongoing conflict, however, the recent survey shows that the polarity that existed is now threatened by the increase in the number of individuals in favor of the pro-life camp.
The principles of liberal democracy appear to suit the pro-choice camp well. To this movement, abortion is akin to the purchase of tobacco or alcohol for the simple reason that they are all ethically doubtful practices whose legality only hinges on the decision by an individual on whether to engage in them, or not. According to the pro-choice advocates, illegitimating abortion would only act to compel women to look for illegal abortions, and this could prove harmful to the woman, in addition to harming the fetus.
In conclusion, the abortion debate is very controversial and heated one. It has pitted the pro-life camp against the pro-choice camp. This is a weighty issue that affects how Americans vote, and for whom. Inasmuch as the government may intervene by instituting policies that needs to be followed while procuring an abortion, ultimately, the key decision rests with the woman, although it is also important that the rights of the unborn child be respected as well.
Cornell University 2012. Choice in America. 2012. Web.
Ginsburg, Faye. Contested lives: the abortion debate in an American community. California: University of California Press, 1998. Print.
Herring, Mark. The Pro-life/choice Debate. Portsmouth: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.
Kramlich, Maureen. The abortion debate thirty years later: from choice to coercion. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 31.3(2003): 1-24.
Solinger, Rickie. Abortion wars: a half century of struggle, 1950-2000. California: University of California Press, 1995. Print.