“The Court held that, in regard to abortions during the first trimester, the decision must be left to the judgment of the pregnant woman’s doctor. In regard to second trimester pregnancies, states may promote their interests in the mother’s health by regulating abortion procedures related to the health of the mother. Regarding third trimester pregnancies, states may promote their interests in the potentiality of human life by regulating or even prohibiting abortion, except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
Trimester is a term meaning a period of three months or roughly the first 91 days of a pregnancy. It should be noted, however, that the duration of full-term human pregnancies can vary by as much as five weeks under the most precise measurement available as of the summer of 2013. Therefore, the term trimester can be thought of as about thirteen weeks. Any pregnancy that goes to 36 weeks is considered full term and most pregnancies are finished by 40 weeks.
The Supreme Court’s decision clearly expressed the principle that in the early stage of a pregnancy the state has no regulatory authority. “The decision must be left to the judgment of the pregnant woman’s doctor,” and one would presume, the pregnant woman. There is no rational person who truly believes abortion is something to be done casually. There is no evidence to even suggest that abortion is ever done in a nonchalant manner.
The timing stated in the Supreme Court ruling is relevant now due to the documented incidence of abortions in the United States in the 21st century. The chart below shows recent data on this matter.
1.5% of abortions in the United States are performed after 20 weeks. Thus, 98.5% happen at or before 20 weeks, and 88% are performed at 12 weeks or less, and more than, 90% are performed within the first trimester. Thus, abortions in the United States are actually happening during the period the Supreme Court has declared this matter to be one between pregnant women and their doctors. The rest of us should shut up and attend to our own business!
The Supreme Court ruled that later on in pregnancies “states may promote their interests in the mother’s health by regulating abortion procedures related to the health of the mother.” The Supreme Court further stated that health includes all factors relevant to the woman’s well-being: “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.” Again, the Supreme Court is asserting that abortions cannot be summarily prohibited, and the principal concern is the well-being of the pregnant woman.
Forty-one years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled woman had a right to abortion services based on the Fourteenth Amendment. This is important because the Fourteenth Amendment is the Constitutional well-spring of all our fundamental rights as citizens. In its ruling, the Supreme Court endorsed the complete civil equality of all American women as “persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”
The contentious issue of access to abortion services continues to rage and millions of vociferous people backed by people with fortunes to spend are constantly seeking to impose their belief that women should be compelled to carry pregnancies to term on our sister citizens. Some of our sisters are found among the ranks of those who style themselves pro-life whenever the life in question has yet to be born, but act distinctly indifferent once birth has occurred. One would think a sensible way to disentangle much of this web of ill-will and rage-driven politics would be to minimize the number of unintended pregnancies through easily accessible contraceptive medicines. Unfortunately, this seems to fall on deaf ears in connection with anti-abortion activists and politicians who respond to them.
The evidence clearly shows that contraceptive use works despite the willful ignorance of reactionaries. On a personal level, contraceptives reduce the probability of having an abortion by an estimated 85%. At the program level, publicly subsidized family planning services in the United States have been shown to have helped women prevent 20 million pregnancies over the last 20 years, nine million of which would have been expected to end in abortion. In the United States currently, the 7% of women who are sexually active and at risk of unintended pregnancy but do not practice contraception are responsible for almost half of the unintended pregnancies and nearly half of the abortions. When coupled with resistance to readily available contraception, one must question the veracity of the claims by reactionaries that they are against abortion. Failure by reactionaries to support actions that can be relied on to prevent nine million abortions is an action that speaks so loudly that their protests of antipathy to abortion cannot be heard or credited. Their true objective is to control and subjugate women and it always was.
Reactionaries argue that emphasis should be placed on restricting or outlawing abortion and on promoting abstinence for young and unmarried people. Although encouraging and enabling young people to delay the initiation of sexual activity is a legitimate activity, abstinence as a method of pregnancy prevention will not work for far too many young people. Furthermore, it will almost surely fail at least once for almost every woman over the 30 or so years of her life during which she could be at risk of unintended pregnancy. As to making abortion illegal, American history as well as experience from around the world demonstrates that if legal restrictions achieve anything, they mainly drive abortion underground—they do not end abortion, they simply make it more dangerous for women.
Any American who truly wants to minimize the number of abortions in the United States and secure the full civil equality and citizenship rights of our sister citizens faces a clear course of action as explained in the following:
“The overwhelming majority of sexually active women in this country seek to prevent unintended pregnancy by practicing contraception; however, women, their partners and technology are not perfect. Therefore, one of the key challenges in further reducing the abortion rate in the United States (and in many other countries around the world) is to increase contraceptive access across the entire society and to facilitate more consistent and more effective contraceptive use.” http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/06/4/gr060407.html
Therefore, let us quit fighting and join together to ensure that every American woman at risk of unintended pregnancy has ready access to contraception and all the knowledge and training needed to use it consistently and correctly. As unintended pregnancies are prevented, abortions are precluded because they never require contemplation. For the far fewer unintended pregnancies which then occur, let all men of goodwill who honestly love the women in their lives stand firm for the full human and civil equality of our sister citizens. If women can be pressed into involuntary servitude during pregnancy, there is in principle no reason why any of us cannot be commandeered for whatever end thought worthwhile reactionaries.