Roe v. Wade: 40 years of political divide in America

WASHINGTON, January 25, 2013 ― Marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision creating a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators marched through Washington today, ending at the steps of the Supreme Court.

The march was delayed until today because of the Presidential Inaugural this last week.

Similarly, on Saturday January 19, somewhere between eight and ten thousand persons gathered at the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse, the site where the Roe v. Wade lawsuit was filed.

That Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision on January 22, 1973, established a woman’s right to abortion. Now, four decades later, that decision remains one this country’s deepest political divides. 

The Pew Research Center report that was released last week (pdf attached) finds that in the last two decades, opinions about abortion have barely changed. The report shows that 63 percent of US adults oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, with 52 percent of Americans saying that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. 

These numbers have changed little since 1992, when 60 percent of respondents said the court should not overturn Roe v. Wade; the most recent polls show a shift of just 3 percent.

The report shows that among Republicans and Democrats alike there is a small decline in support for legal abortion, however the change is “is smaller among Democrats,” whose support for legal abortion is down four points with no corresponding increase in pro-life opinion. (The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)

The forty year abortion debate remains divisive to the country, and the divide has not been reduced by President Obama, who as recently as this week repeated his commitment to a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. He repeated his demand that all businesses, including those with religious objection to contraception and abortion, provide insurance access to birth control, while leaving state legislatures to contend with a woman’s right to demand an abortion.

Many Americans feel that while a woman’s decision on whether to seek an abortion is between her and her doctor, groups that oppose birth control or abortion for reasons of religion or conscience should not be forced to provide insurance coverage for either.

The Pew Report says that among Republicans, 52 percent fear that the Obama Administration will go too far in its support of abortion rights.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, speaking via video to today’s pro-life – anti-abortion March for Life protestors, vowed that ending taxpayer funded abortion is “One of our most Fundamental Goals.”

Also present at the event was former Pennsylvania senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum’s youngest daughter, Bella, was born with a serious genetic condition that caused him to leave the campaign trail to be with Bella when she was hospitalized. He described her this way: “She is joyful, she is sweet, she is all about love.” He continued, “And I’m here to tell you … Bella is better for us and we are better because of Bella.”

Democrats and Republicans alike have made abortion rights a part of their party platforms since 1976.

Community’s writer Jim Picht writes that the abortion issue is a “tool to rally liberal voters and pry open Democratic pocket books, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade passed with a remarkable lack of attention. The front page of Google News Tuesday morning contained not even one mention of Roe, and if President Obama exulted in 40 years of legal abortion during his inaugural address, he did it in his heart. Reproductive rights, so important in his campaign, were absent from his speech.”

Picht reports that “70 percent of respondents to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll do not want Roe v. Wade overturned, while most Americans consider themselves ‘pro-life,’ not ‘pro-choice,’ and while they think that abortion should be legal, they also think that it should be rare.”

Today’s March on Washington did nothing to move the debate in either direction, and Pro-Life and Pro-Choice protestors were generally peaceful in stating their views. 

The extreme cold on the National Mall may have had something to do with the lack of fiery rhetoric that often inflames both of the groups. The only thing on which we all agree is that Americans disagree deeply on this issue. 

Associated Press and Pew Forums contributed to this report

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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