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Where We're at, 40 Years After Roe v. Wade: Many More Right Wingers Have Abortion as Single Issue, Than Do Liberals

Four decades on and the fight continues.

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TW: Yeah, I mean I absolutely agree with you. I think we on the pro-choice side have really set up a victim-based narrative that means some abortions are more justified than others. The less involved a women is in the conception, in getting pregnant, the more we seem to think her abortion is legitimate. I do think it sets up a lot of stigma towards the majority of women who have abortions, not because they are the victims of sexual assault, but because they don’t want to have a child at the time -- they can’t afford a child at the time, this isn’t the right relationship, they have other things they want to pursue in their life. I think we have contributed on the pro-choice side to abortion stigma in ways we haven’t yet accepted responsibility for.

JH: Some of the redder states have passed laws that clearly violate Roe -- Roe and subsequent case law holds that a state can ban abortions after viability, after the fetus can live outside the womb. We’re seeing these "fetal personhood" bills that basically ban abortion entirely.

Under the Civil Rights Act, if you challenge a law on civil rights grounds and win, the state pays your lawyers. So we have this amazing irony, that these deep-red states that want to defund Planned Parenthood end up paying Planned Parenthood’s lawyers millions of dollars. This happens all the time.

My question is this: are abortion rights advocates wary of pushing one of these cases to a Supreme Court that they see as increasingly activist and increasingly right-leaning? Are they wary of actually confronting these laws?

TW: I think so. I mean there were a number of states where they banned abortion after 20 weeks and initially those laws were not challenged and one of the reasons was, of course, those states didn’t have providers who performed abortions that late so there was little impact on women and there was concern that this particular Supreme Court, in particular Justice Kennedy, who was very hostile in writing the decision upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, that he will be sympathetic to these laws.

Unfortunately those laws then also got passed in states like Arizona and Georgia, where there were providers and where there was real potential impact on women’s access to care. Those have both been challenged. I think they had to be challenged, because they are unconstitutional and because they really would have an effect on women’s health, but I do think that the lawyers are wary that a bad decision may be coming.

JH: I think everybody needs to remember that we are not discussing whether abortion will be a part of the fabric of our society or not. When you talk about legality, all you are talking about is whether it will be a criminal thing, done in back alleys, or not, because we’ve always had abortion. The alternative to legal abortion is having wealthy women leave the country for an abortion and poor women being butchered in back alleys. That’s what the debate is about.

TW: There is a new study that was just released this week by Lynn Paltrow that looked at what’s happening in this country around the incarceration of women and prosecution of women who are having stillbirths, who are having miscarriages and suggesting that there would be police action against women who would engage in having an abortion illegally.

So the very real risk that this becomes an economically stratified access issue, that is enforced by pretty hardcore punishment and as you say we have evidence all over the world that legality and use are not related. There is no relationship whether the law exists, or doesn’t exist in the country, abortion exists in every country in the world. The question is whether it is safe, whether or not it’s economically stratified, that’s really what the law makes a difference with.

 
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