Tuesday marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade. The verdict utilized the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to protect a woman’s privacy regarding the right to choose. Roe v. Wade and a concurrent case, Doe v. Bolton, addressed the lack of clarity in state laws regarding abortion access.
The decision made in Roe v. Wade attempted to rectify the complication of two key interests with regard to pregnancy termination: women’s health and prenatal life. It was established that women should have full access to abortion services until viability. Since we have become accustomed to the issue of choice, the terminology of the decision lacks so much specificity that attempts at defining “life” have become prevalent.
For instance, viability is relative to each pregnancy and cannot be applied in a universal manner and is complicated by conceptions of personhood, as shown in attempts at limiting Mississippi’s Initiative 26. Such are the issues that arise in motions to regulate and enforce the inherent nuances of pregnancy. We have seen efforts aimed at clarifying these problems through the legal system in successive cases brought before the Supreme Court, including Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart.
As we attempt to coalesce action regarding an issue with two main interest camps maintaining their own distinct perspectives on the issue, we will continue to encounter issues of clarity and complications of enforcement. The values with which the groups approach abortion, when applied rigidly, are exclusive of each other.
The valuation of prenatal life over the health of the woman, for one, excludes considerations for the woman’s particular circumstance. The arrival at the decision to abort is deeply personal and regulation of access to abortion services, if any, should respect this agency. This respect for individual authority is an issue that needs to be further articulated and discussed in the public sphere as a uniting valuation we can apply to the many, multifaceted issues that manifest in our modern society.
Many are concerned with the possible actions and subsequent consequences in response to the cases previously mentioned. This inability to come to a compromise on the situation is causing a new, wider rift in our country and people’s political allegiances.
The problem is never going to disappear, and the women who are affected by the possible outcomes and interpretations of new laws face a daunting prospect. Women across the country who have aborted will gain new stigma in the event that pro-life supporters have their way, and those who revile women for discarding the budding life within them will be seen as criminals to the people who reserve the right to govern what happens within their own bodies.
Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that either way, someone is going to be left offended and nursing their ideologically driven anger.
What impacts this will have in 10, perhaps 20 years in the future are as of yet unknown until one standard is implemented. But hopefully, the next few generations will not be as offended at our indiscretions as we were to hear about how doctors once “treated” the mentally ill or how unyielding many previous generations were in accepting the reality of evolution.
Alyssa Coffey is a freshman majoring in American studies and ethnicity. Melissa Mendes is a junior majoring in English.