Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Abortion from a LEGAL Perspective

The following is a legal discussion of the issue of abortion. It is does not intend to address the ethical issues.

Abortion.  It’s a heated topic in most years and a red hot topic during presidential election years.  There are common misconceptions about laws surrounding abortion, so sometimes it is good to step back and look at the issues.

Roe v Wade:  In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that a women’s right to privacy extends to making decisions about her fetus – including the right to have an abortion.  The right is completely autonomous in the first trimester and then states have limited rights to restrict during the second and third trimester.  (Third trimester abortions are illegal in most states).  The case also granted the states the right to place other restrictions, such as parental consent for minors.  The key issue in Roe v. Wade is privacy – not the legality or moral implications of abortion.

Conscience Clause: This federal regulatory law allows healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals to opt out of procedures that they find morally questionable.  To this end, most healthcare facilities with Catholic affiliation will not perform sterilization procedures or abortions.  Because this is a regulatory law, it can change when we have a federal administration change.  For example, during the Bush administration, the Conscience Clause included pharmacists and allowed them to refuse to fill morning after pill prescriptions.  When Obama was elected, his administration removed that component because they felt it put an undue burden on patients seeking that contraceptive alternative.  States have the ability to expand the conscience clause allowances (see resource below).

These issues will most likely be touched upon in upcoming presidential debates.  One of the key issues centers on the fact that the next president will appoint at least one new Supreme Court Justice, and likely several others, during his/her tenure.  The thought from both sides is to promote a Justice who supports their side: Pro-life vs Pro-choice.  However, the history books have shown that the issue is not really the sanctity of life.  It is allowing patients the right to make private decisions about their healthcare options.  Just as in Montana vs. Baxter, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual’s right to privacy extends to the right to die with dignity.  The right to privacy is as precious to U.S. citizens as the right to free speech.   It is unlikely that any sworn protector of the Constitution would feel otherwise.


 Provided by Valerie Connor, MA CCC-SLP, CHES; Adjunct Faculty, Saint Joseph's College

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