Abortion and the Law

No Easy Answers

Of all the issues that concern Americans, none appears to divide us more bitterly than abortion. In recent months we have been assaulted by images from an escalating pro-choice vs. pro-life battle, as each side digs its trenches (and digs in its heels) for the long haul.

On one side, women and men brandishing coat hangers and signs reading "Keep Abortion Legal" claim that abortion is a woman's right, graphically reminding us of the women who died of self-inflicted and illegal abortions in years past. On the other side, women and men holding signs proclaiming "Equal Rights for Unborn Women" and "Abortion Is Murder" -- some bearing graphic depictions of aborted fetuses -- uphold the fetus' right to life and call the 1.5 million abortions that are performed each year in this country a holocaust.

What triggered the recent intensification of the abortion war was a Supreme Court decision. On July 3, 1989, the court handed down its widely awaited ruling in the Missouri case of Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services. In anticipation of the decision, pro-choice advocates feared that the court might overturn its landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, which established abortion as a constitutional right. Pro-life proponents, on the other hand, hoped the court might take the opportunity to make a historic reversal.

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