Abortion, Ltd. or Unlimited?

Arkansas Joins the Growing Crowd Against Roe v. Wade

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill this week banning almost all abortions, excepting only those cases involving a threat to the life of the mother. Hutchinson, who holds some concerns about the ban not also excluding cases of rape or incest, nonetheless says he signed the bill because of its “overwhelming legislative support” and his “sincere and long-held pro-life convictions.” The ban is set to go into effect later this summer, although opponents have vowed to block it.

Arkansas has thus joined the ranks of some 14 states where legislators have proposed abortion bans this year alone, and an even greater number of states that have “trigger laws” in place to immediately ban abortions should Roe be overturned. Supporters of the Arkansas bill hope that this week’s legislation will provide the Supreme Court an opportunity to revisit Roe, although at least one pro-life attorney has counseled against such legislation. James Bopp, general counsel to National Right to Life, wrote a letter to Hutchinson advising against such an outright challenge, arguing that it was “not at all clear” that the current Supreme Court conservative majority is enough to overturn Roe. “Absent such a majority,” Bopp contined, “a case directly challenging Roe risks yet another opinion reaffirming Roe and holding that it doesn't meet the Court's criteria for overruling precedents.”

Nonetheless, more and more states continue to chip away at legal abortion. In Arkansas, a 20-week ban is already in place, and only one abortion clinic remains in the state, in Little Rock. One Ohio legislator just introduced a bill that would ban all abortions should Roe be overturned, South Carolina in February passed a “fetal heartbeat” bill (protecting the life of the child once a heartbeat has been detected, usually at around six weeks gestation), and Florida is currently considering legislation that would move the current 24-week ban (a “viability” ban) to 20 weeks. Abortion activists have in many of these cases already moved to block the legislation, but nonetheless, strong movements exist to revisit the disastrous Roe decision and move abortion decisions back into state legislatures.

And in spite of what the left continues to say about Americans wanting legal abortion, the American Enterprise Institute’s Timothy Carney has argued effectively that most Americans don’t, in fact, favor unlimited abortion access and upholding Roe. “Most people say they support Roe v. Wade,” writes Carney, “but that’s because most people don’t know what Roe did, and they don’t know what overturning it would mean.” He continues: “Poll questions on Roe v. Wade often don’t describe the ruling's effects. Often they mischaracterize them, implying or stating that Roe protects abortion only in the first three months. They typically say Roe ‘legalized abortion,’ implying that overturning it would outlaw all abortion.”

In other words, the American public for the most part believes that Roe guarantees abortion access, and that overturning it would immediately make abortion illegal across the country. What most don’t understand is that overturning Roe would allow decisions concerning abortion to revert to the states – where such decisions belong, given the vast cultural, political, and religious differences that exist regionally in this country. Carney offers compelling evidence that only about 18% of Americans want unlimited access to abortion up until the moment of birth (access that exists in states like New York and Illinois, for example), and that a poll question that characterized Roe honestly saw a country nearly evenly divided on the issue. Even a recent NPR poll became one of many that have found that the majority of Americans favor at least some restrictions on abortion. And it is no secret that abortion numbers have been dropping steadily since the early 1980s, forcing Planned Parenthood to start marketing its other new services – gender hormone therapy chief among them.

Pro-life advocates have reason to rejoice, and the recent ruling from Arkansas is just but one example. Slowly, the tides are turning, as Americans have now experienced what decades of the innocent slaughter of human life does to women, children, and a nation.

is the managing editor of The Natural Family, the quarterly publication of the International Organization for the Family.

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