How The Anti-Abortion Movement Has Slowly Chipped Away At Abortion Rights

Pro-choice protesters from NARAL stand outside Mitt Romney’s hotel in Washington, D.C. last March.

Photo: Getty Images

Abortion is possibly the most divisive issue in the United States.Pro-choice advocates argue that women should have total control over their own bodies. Anti-abortion advocates believe life begins at conception, so abortion is murder.

There’s little (if any) common ground.

As it stands, the U.S. Supreme Court recognised a woman’s right to abort a pregnancy in Roe v. Wade 40 years ago.

On a more fundamental level, Roe v. Wade didn’t just allow women to legally obtain abortions. It affirmed the right of doctors to practice medicine without interference from the states, unless the state had a compelling interest.

Well, the definition of what constitutes a “compelling interest” seems to have expanded since Roe v. Wade. States all across the nation have enacted, or are in the process of enacting, many laws restricting access to abortions.

A Guttmacher Institute study found that 135 abortion restrictions were enacted at the state level in 2011 and 2012.

There have been quite a few attempts to limit abortion rights at the federal level, as well.

At the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Jan. 25, John Boehner told the crowd “making abortion a relic of the past” is “one of our most fundamental goals this year.”

The Hyde Amendment is the grandfather of abortion funding restrictions.

Henry Hyde, a now-deceased House Republican, attached an amendment to a Medicaid appropriations bill that prohibited federal funding of abortions back in 1976.

The law now allows for federal funding for abortions to preserve the health of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

Opponents believe this amendment 'places an undue burden on women who rely on government programs like Medicaid for health care,' The Washington Post has reported.


This amendment has had a big impact on Native American women.

Indian Health Service facilities, which provide care for about 2 million Native Americans, are federally funded. So, they're subject to the same limitations for abortion funding as Medicaid, according to the pro-choice group NARAL.

IHS facilities are often the only medical care available within hours of a reservation.

These barriers render 'the right to choose effectively meaningless for Native-American women who rely on IHS for their health care,' NARAL says.


American women overseas can also face an uphill battle getting an abortion.

Women serving in combat currently can't get abortions at military bases except in emergencies, even if they pay for those abortions with their own money, according to the National Abortion Federation.

NAF pointed out that, as a result, women serving overseas are forced to seek care from foreign providers, who often practice medicine differently from U.S. doctors or don't speak English.

In practice, many women have a tough time getting an abortion in the United States too.

A new law in Mississippi mandates that abortion providers have 'admitting privileges' at a local hospital in order to operate, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

There's only one clinic left, and local hospitals have refused to grant its providers the ability to keep the practice open. Legal challenges have been filed in an attempt to keep the clinic open.

A similar bill has recently been introduced in Alabama.

Bizarre architectural requirements may force clinics in Virginia to close their doors.

As the Huffington Post reports, a Virginia law passed in 2012 regulates building specifications such as 'minimum hallway widths, specific ventilation systems and covered entrances' at clinics that perform at least five abortions per month.

Here's the result, according to HuffPost:

None of the 20 clinics in the state that are applying for a new licence currently meet the requirements, and in order to come into compliance in the allotted two-year time period they would have to undergo costly, extensive renovations.


Abortion coverage may not be available in the exchanges established under Obamacare.

Alabama, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and South Dakota have prohibited abortion coverage from being part of plans available in those states' insurance exchanges, with some exceptions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

At the federal level, Sen. Tom Coburn recently introduced a bill to ban abortion from being covered by state plans created by Obamacare, The Hill reported.


Restrictions on late-term abortions have long been sought by anti-abortion advocates.

Seven states have passed laws in recent years banning late-term abortions, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The laws are based on 'questionable research' that fetuses start to feel pain at 20 weeks, according to the Tribune.

There are also a number of pending abortion restrictions. A North Dakota bill would make it illegal for doctors to terminate an abnormal foetus.

A bill introduced in North Dakota would make any doctor who performs an abortion based on sex selection or genetic abnormality guilty of a Class A misdemeanour, The Bismacrk Tribune reported last month.

Enshrining 'Fetal Personhood' into law has been attempted at the federal and state levels.

The latest effort was made by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Georgia, who introduced the Sanctity of Life Act on January 3, which would grant a foetus the same rights as a person as of conception.


An Arkansas bill would effectively ban abortions at just six weeks.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Jason Rapert, recently advanced in the state Senate's panel and would ban abortion if a heartbeat could be detected, the AP reported. Exemptions are included for health of the mother, and cases of rape or incest.

It could be a while before any of these laws are challenged before the Supreme Court ...

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