So much of the abortion debate is based on myths, bad assumptions, bad logic, or outright gaslighting through deception. For the rest of 2019 we will highlight one common abortion myth every month.
The bottom line: As long as Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton remain the law of the land, late-term abortion restrictions are limited by judges.
Many myths surround the issue of late-term abortions, which are inaccurately claimed to be rare and only for health problems—issues we have addressed in previous posts in this series. A common related myth is that late-term abortion procedures are strictly limited in most instances, or even illegal for elective reasons. However, this is simply not true. The United States accompanies North Korea, China, and Canada as countries with the most permissive and expansive abortion laws in the world.
In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the decisions central to current abortion law in the United States. In Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Court legalized abortion on-demand in all nine months of pregnancy throughout the country, overturning abortion restrictions in all the states.
Along with creating a right to abortion, Roe v. Wade established a trimester framework for future abortion laws to follow. During the first trimester, the Court ruled abortion is entirely the decision of a woman and her doctor and cannot be interfered with. In the second trimester, the Supreme Court allowed for laws to regulate abortion in ways “reasonably related to maternal health,” but such laws could not protect the life of the unborn child. In the third trimester, the Supreme Court ruled states may restrict abortions, except when abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s life and health.
Prolife laws generally include an exception for the life of the mother, but what does “health” really mean?
In Roe’s companion case of Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court went on to define health as including “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.” The Court’s broad definition of “health” means practically nothing can restrict abortion access, even during the final three months of pregnancy.
The trimester framework established in Roe v. Wade was replaced by the 1992 Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Now, states can regulate abortions before viability—the point at which a child can survive outside the womb—but any regulations must not pose an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion. After viability, states can restrict abortions, but restrictions must still allow for “health” exceptions. So, states can ban abortions after viability as long as the bans have exceptions to allow abortions for any reason; many people are confused by this nonsensical sham of a rule.
Although abortion restrictions have been addressed in many court cases since 1973, Roe and Doe are still the Supreme Court’s imposed rule, limiting many abortion restrictions passed by the states.
Polling data highlights the confusion that exists between public support for Roe v. Wade and widespread opposition for late-term abortions. Polls show a majority of people oppose overturning Roe and Doe, yet those same people overwhelmingly oppose the late-term abortions Roe and Doe allowed.
In a 2019 Gallup poll, when asked if the Supreme Court should overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision concerning abortion, 60% of poll respondents disagreed with overturning it. A 2018 Gallup poll that asked people about support for abortion in specific circumstance found that only 20% believe it should be legal to have a late-term abortion for any reason, and only a minority of 45% thought that first trimester abortions should be legal for any reason.
Polls routinely indicate the general public supports much greater restrictions on late-term abortions. However, due to the 1973 Supreme Court rulings in Roe and Doe, late-term abortions are allowed for essentially any reason and cannot be generally restricted.
This year, we have witnessed states such as New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Illinois remove even modest regulations on late-term abortions with their legislatures supporting—and even celebrating—legalized abortion up to and including the process of birth. While these legislative changes did receive a lot of brief national media attention, the Abortion Industry relies on myths like this to confuse many people and prevent them from understanding the scope of abortion in America today.
Late-term abortion restrictions are popular, but such restrictions are shut down by judges hiding behind legal nonsense in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. It’s only because of this myth and others like it that most Americans have no clue that America and Canada stand with North Korea and China when it comes to legal protection for human life in the womb.