The United States Abortion Politics

The United States

An acrimonious battle between two competing ideologies remains at the crux of US abortion politics. Those who support abortion view it as a right required for social equality for all women; those who oppose it see it as a threat to motherhood, morality, and social cohesion. (Beckman, 2017.) Although the controversy still continues, many changes have been made. According to (Beckman,2017), 332 provisions regarding abortion had been addressed in legislation during the first three months of 2015. Since 2010, the United States has witnessed a dramatic expansion of state-based restrictions on abortion. The most common of these are informed consent statutes, which require that a woman seeking an abortion is to receive a state-authored informational packet before the abortion procedure can be performed. (Daniels, et. al., 2016, pg. 192) This decision opened a window and eventually by 2013 thirty-seven U.S states had informed consent laws.

According to (Daniels, 2016) these states also required women to be given a packet of information regarding fetal development including organ development, the function of the heart and lungs, brain development, and the ability of the fetus to experience pain. According to (Jones, 2017) TRAP laws or, targeted regulation of abortion providers placed even more regulations on abortion providers and their working conditions. Following the implementation of these laws, more than half of the 46 clinics in the state closed, and the abortion rate had declined 13% by April 2014. Another regulation that has had a large impact on women’s health services is the affordable care act or, ACA. According to (Beckman, 2017) this act is the reason that insurance plans are allowed to deny coverage for abortions, leaving women little to no options. Due to the large amount of laws and regulations surrounding abortion, many clinics have been forced to close, possibly being the reason for the decline in abortion rates.

According to (Decosta, 2015), there is no national data that depicts the amount of abortions performed in Australia yearly. However, the estimated number is about 80,000 women each year. No two jurisdictions have adopted the same approach to abortion law reform, with the result that we now have a complex patchwork of different legal requirements and criminal law defenses across Australia. (Decosta, et. al., 2015) Before 2008, abortion in Australia could lead to criminalization. However; in 2008, abortion was removed from the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria and the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 was passed by the Victorian parliament. The Victorian legal position means that the decision to have an abortion up to 24‐weeks’ gestation is now essentially made by the woman in consultation with a health professional. (Decosta, et. al., 2015.) However, according to (Decosta, 2015.), in New South Wales, abortion is still a crime and the woman along with the service provider can be charged under legislation.

Up to 20‐weeks’ gestation, abortion can be performed lawfully by a medical practitioner if it is considered necessary to avoid serious damage to the woman’s physical or mental health or serious ‘personal, family or social consequences. After 20 weeks of pregnancy, two medical practitioners from a panel of six appointed by the Minister for Health must agree that the mother or unborn child has a severe medical condition justifying abortion. (pg. 107) As noted, the regions of Australia vary when it comes to the regulations of abortion.

Since the landmark 1988 Supreme Court decision, R. v. Morgentaler, (which decriminalized abortion) Canada’s abortions laws remain largely unchanged. Unlike the United States, the Canadian government largely protects women’s access to abortion. (Schwarz,2018.) In Canada, decisions about abortion are made in the same way as those about vasectomy or treatment for a ruptured appendix or an ectopic pregnancy. These decisions, even for life threatening procedures and those with potential lifelong fertility implications, take place in the context of the doctor-patient relationship. (Liauw, et. al., 2016, pg. 479) According to (Dunn, Cook, 2014.), one in every three women will undergo abortion at some point in their life. However, overall abortion rates have been in a steady decline since the mid-1990s, from 16 per 1000 females aged 15-44 in 1996 to 11.6/1000 in 2014, despite relative stability in birth rates (Liauw, et. al., 2016, pg. 479). However, Canadian women lack access to a safe, effective and often preferred method of early abortion that is available in many other countries. The internationally recognized ‘gold standard’ for medical (i.e., nonsurgical) abortion, mifepristone (followed by misoprostol), is not available in Canada. (Dunn, Cook, 2014.)

We distributed and collected surveys between November 2014 and May 2015. In total, 301 residents and 15 program directors responded, giving response rates of 55% and 94%, respectively. Based on responses by program directors, half of the programs had “opt-in” abortion training, and half of the programs had “opt-out” abortion training. Upon completion of residency, 66% of residents expected to be competent in providing first-trimester surgical abortion in an ambulatory setting, and 35% expected to be competent in second-trimester surgical abortion. Overall, 15% of residents reported that they were not aware of or did not have access to abortion training within their program, and 69% desired more abortion training during residency. (pg. 479)

The UK 1967 Abortion Act was introduced to provide a legal defense against the criminal law passed in 1861, but that law remains on the statute book. The abortion act still requires two doctors to predict the balance of future harm-usually mental-from continuation of the pregnancy of a woman they may never have met previously, and for the abortion to take place at a designated, registered place. If these conditions are not met, the 1861 act allows for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the practitioner or the woman. (Goldbeck-Wood, et.al.,2018)

Sandy Goldbeck-Wood, clinical lead for abortion services at Cambridge University Hospitals, argued that the current law is paternalistic and out of step with technical advances in safe medical abortion. She said that many women presenting to abortion services in early pregnancy believe that they have a right to make their own choice, as they would in most of Europe, but that British law still requires identification of serious or mental health risk by two doctors not necessarily qualified in psychological disciplines, who may not know the woman personally. (pg.1)

The recent decisions to liberalize abortion laws in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man have put pressure on the British prime minister, Theresa May, to consider decriminalizing abortion in the UK. Although she believes ‘that a woman should be able to access safe, legal abortion,’ she has not yet acted to initiate amendment of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act-perhaps in fear of Northern Ireland’s anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), on which her minority government depends. (pg. 1)

According to (Goldbeck-Wood, et.al.,2018), Democratic Unionist Party members have threatened Theresa May against allowing a free vote on abortion, due to how sensitive of a subject it tends to be. Those most affected by the criminal status of abortion in the UK are women in Northern Ireland, where abortion is prohibited even after rape or in the case of fatal fetal anomaly, and where women seek it under stigma and in fear of jail.

Most people assume that, because Northern Ireland is part of the UK, British law applies. And why shouldn’t it? The reason is that in 1967, when the Abortion Act first provided legal, but heavily regulated, access to abortion in Britain, Northern Ireland was specifically excluded. As a consequence, abortion services-or funding for abortion-which is provided routinely by the NHS in Britain, is not provided by the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board. (pg.1)

While the recent death of a pregnant woman who had been denied termination of her pregnancy has drawn attention to the Republic of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws, 2 the plight of women in the north has remained in the shadows. (Furedi, 2014.) According to (Furedi,2014) Northern Irish women travel to England, Belgium, or the Netherlands to undergo abortions, and due to the development of effective drugs licensed for abortions, many turn to the internet in order to inflict an early at home miscarriage upon themselves.