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Can Roe Survive?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Roe v. Wade is established law in the United States of America. But that isn't stopping some states from trying to undermine it as much as possible via their own anti-choice legislation, unconstitutional though some of it might seem.

In April, for example, Nebraska criminalized abortions after 20 weeks. However, under Roe, a woman has the right to an abortion until fetal viability, which is generally believed to occur somewhere between 24 and 28 weeks.

So, some might expect that the Nebraska law will find its way into the courts. And some might expect that it would ultimately be struck down based on Roe.

But I'm not so confident.

As the tea party movement continues to demonstrate, a very vocal far-right contingent is gaining more and more influence in government.

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So the anti-choice crowd is taking advantage of the current political climate, and is working overtime to push its agenda, with small steps as well as large ones.

Already, Arizona, Tennessee, and Mississippi have implemented limits or outright bans on abortion coverage in health care exchanges under the new health care reform legislation. And other states are pushing for similar measures.

In Oklahoma, any woman who wants an abortion is subjected to an intrusive vaginal-probe ultrasound while being forced to view the fetus as the physician describes it in detail.

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Perhaps even worse, given the departure of the fairly liberal Justice John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court, I'm not convinced that Roe is safe from being overturned by the Roberts Court, if given the chance anytime soon.

Forget any kind of legislative push-back from Washington. Given that a Democrat forced an anti-choice compromise in order to pass the health care reform bill, we can't count on Congress to reinforce Roe at a legislative level.

So, if Roe is indeed ever overturned (perish the thought), abortion rights will likely revert to the jurisdiction of the individual states, many of which may outlaw it completely. In fact, North Dakota is already prepared, having enacted a near-total ban on abortion in 2007 which would become effective if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Under the ban, abortion providers could face up to five years in prison.

And so, if Roe is indeed ever overturned, women in some so-called red states may find themselves unable to obtain a legal (and safe) abortion without traveling to a state that allows it.

That's no solution for the women who cannot afford to explore their long-distance options.

And, sadly, those are the women who most need a choice.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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