Wednesday, July 05, 2006
NEJM Perspective on Roe
Watson Bowes, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, is among those who argue that Roe v. Wade is a misuse of federal authority: "The Supreme Court used raw judicial power to trump state legislators, and the decision should be overturned on those grounds." Other antiabortion activists advocate incremental changes in state laws to limit the provision of abortion. These changes include parental consent laws, fetal homicide laws (making it two crimes to kill a pregnant woman), strict regulations for abortion clinics, and legislation requiring physicians to offer women fetal ultrasonography before an abortion.
This strategy is already having an effect, argued Katherine Grainger, legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "With each year, more and more restrictions on Roe are being passed." Ultimately, Grainger said, "we'll see it slowly eviscerated to the point where . . . it's hollow."
Many older abortion providers believe that the complacency of younger women and physicians is partially responsible for the current state of affairs. "They don't remember the thousands of women who died from septic abortions," argued Edelin. "They don't realize that this is a battle to save women's lives — not a battle for choice."
As new legislation is passed, the courts will hear more cases that challenge Roe, and physicians may increasingly risk their careers and their lives if they choose to provide abortions. With each new decision to limit abortion, more American women lose their access. Whether the Supreme Court ultimately upholds or overturns the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, one thing is certain: poor women in rural America are bearing the brunt of these decisions, and some may pay with their lives.