42 years ago today, the US Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, which, at the time, established a woman’s unqualified constitutional right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy during the first two trimesters — the generally accepted period during which the fetus is not viable outside the womb. Do the same protections established in Roe still exist today? You might be surprised.
Today, the once absolute right to an abortion during the first two trimesters is qualified by the state’s power to impose legislative conditions or limits upon women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. And, as long as those conditions or limits are deemed by the courts not to impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose, they will be upheld, even during the first two trimesters. So, 24- to 72-hour waiting periods, the requirement that women watch videos and submit to counseling about fetal development prior to abortions, and other impositions are placed upon women and their right to terminate pregnancies. Indeed, today, more than half of American states impose these or similar conditions on a woman’s right to choose. And the new Republican majority in Congress is planning to approve new federal limitations on abortion rights in the coming congressional term.
What do you think? Should states and the federal government be permitted to impose conditions on a woman’s right to choose during the first two trimesters? Suppose a state has just one facility that performs elective abortions and it’s 400 miles away – does a 72-hour waiting period (and the costs associated with travel and lodging) constitute an “undue burden?” How can anyone truly define the term “undue burden” and where does that term come from?