In 1973, Sandra Cano and Norma McCorvey,
plaintiffs of two of the most significant cases on abortion,
didn’t realize they were putting themselves into a position
of sparking an ongoing national controversy over women’s
right to choose.
In the case of Roe v. Wade, state laws prohibiting abortion
were revoked. In 1973, laws had prohibited an abortion except
necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. Roe v.
Wade revoked those laws, legalizing abortion with particular
restrictions for each of the three trimesters.
Doe v. Bolton, however, substantially broadened the circumstances
under which abortions could be performed in any trimester right
up until delivery.
During the first trimester, there are no restrictions on terminating
the pregnancy. During the second and third trimesters, a woman
must have a health-related reason to abort her baby, but there
were otherwise no real restrictions.
In both cases, the court declared that then current abortion
statutes violated the “Due Process” Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment, which protects one from state action against
privacy, including a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.
Although the states were allowed to put restrictions on abortion
in the second and third trimester to protect the potential human
existence, women would still have access to abortion if their
health was an issue.
The major issue for narrowing or broadening restrictions on
abortion is the definition of health. When the cases were
was defined as anything that would impact the woman’s physical,
emotional, psychological, or financial well being. Basically,
this means the woman can have an abortion for any reason, including
birth defects, money problems, stress, or even gender selection.
Health still, to this day, hasn’t been defined for a late
term abortion, and this has created multiple controversies over
a woman’s right to an abortion.
Legalizing abortion has given women an opportunity for choice.
Abortion is a personal and private decision that a woman must
make. She must take into account many risks in aborting a fetus,
including mental and physical damage to herself. However, if
a mother-to-be is not ready, a full pregnancy can lead to many
other risks such as abandonment, post-traumatic stress, or even
Abortions were being performed long before they were legalized,
and they were very risky, expensive, and unsafe. Legal abortions
have saved women from the emotional trauma of an unwanted pregnancy
and the physical dangers associated with illegal abortion. Abortions
done by licensed physicians aren’t completely safe, but
the patient is made aware of the risks, and is put under the
care of the physician.
Extending an abortion right throughout the entire nine months
of a pregnancy due to issues such as social or financial well
being, however, is absurd. By the end of the second term, there
is a fully developed baby inside the womb. Non-life-threatening
health decisions should be made prior to the fetus achieving
this advanced state of development.
Women should have the right to choose whether or not they will
carry a pregnancy past the first trimester. There should be a
newly defined meaning for the restrictions based on the health
of the mother during later terms of the pregnancy. It is a woman’s
choice to keep or abort a first trimester pregnancy. During the
second and third trimesters, abortions are more complicated,
painful, and dangerous, so later term abortions should be more
restricted, due to the development of the baby and the health
of the mother. There should be a better reason for aborting a
baby during the last trimester than finances or gender selection.
Doe v. Bolton has benefited women, but has also taken advantage
of the situation. “Health” must be redefined for
late term pregnancies, so the baby and the mother are protected.
And recent legislation outlawing late term abortions should be
revoked or amended so that the health care of both mother and
child is returned to the doctors.
If the mother’s life is in danger and delivery of the baby
might terminate the mother’s life during a late term pregnancy,
physicians should think first of the mother. If both the baby
and the mother die because of dangers to the health of the mother,
what good does restricting all abortions do?
Everyone, including pro-choice supporters, agree there should
be fewer abortions. If the restrictions on late term abortions
are more clearly defined, there would be fewer abortions and
the health of the mother would be protected.