The issue of abortion is one of the most fundamentally controversial for Americans. The right to life of an unborn child vs. a woman’s right to control her body is as contentious a debate as there is.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade, women have had access to legal abortion. And since that time, groups opposed to abortion have been fighting unsuccessfully to have the ruling overturned.
That could change in the coming years with the present actions of lawmakers in various states. In some, laws have been passed to further liberalize abortion practices. In others, lawmakers are approving legislation that would all but prohibit abortion.
Georgia passed legislation that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. South Carolina is considering such a law.
Alabama has gone further. There lawmakers approved a ban on abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is in danger. There are no exceptions for rape and incest. And penalties for a doctor performing an illegal abortion could be up to 99 years in prison.
Even longtime opponents of legal abortion such as evangelist Pat Robertson are saying the Alabama law is extreme. But the lawmakers there planned it that way, knowing that a state-mandated ban on abortion would be legally challenged on the road to an ultimate decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, where a new conservative majority of justices could undo Roe vs. Wade.
"It’s an extreme law, and they want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose," he said.
Laws such as the one passed in Georgia, though also vehemently opposed by those believing legal abortion should remain, stand a better chance of being upheld as constitutional.
Proponents of the new laws against abortion argue the statutes are a legitimate prerogative of the states. While they would like to see a national ban on abortion, they contend each state has a right to set its own legal standards.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the wake of Roe vs. Wade, is unlikely to go along with the states’ rights argument. And while the more conservative court yet could go the route of overturning “settled law” in the matter Roe vs. Wade, finding middle ground is more likely.