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What the Roe v. Wade Ruling Found
States are forbidden to interfere with a woman's access to abortion during the 1st trimester of pregnancy.
States can only regulate 2nd trimester abortions to protect a woman's health.
States can ban 3rd trimester abortions except if a woman's life is in jeopardy.
A fetus is not protected as a "person" under the 14th amendment.
A woman's right to choose is a fundamental right and has the highest level of Constitutional protection.
Life Before Roe v. Wade
Before Roe was decided, 2/3 of states permitted abortions only when the woman's life was threatened. The majority of other states had only slightly more liberal abortion laws. As a result:
- 1.2 million women a year had illegal, often dangerous abortions.
- 5,000 women died annually from complications from illegal abortions.
The Impact of the Decision
After Roe, women could decide when and if they were prepared to be mothers. No longer restricted by unwanted, poorly timed pregnancies, women had increased opportunities for advancement in economic, political, and social spheres.
However, an increasingly conservative Supreme Court has allowed numerous restrictions on a woman's right to choose in recent years, including waiting periods, mandatory "education" on the dangers of abortion, parental consent laws, and a ban on public funding for uninsured women's abortions.
Since 1973, the anti-choice movement has worked furiously to dismantle this law – with the ultimate goal of overturning the decision altogether. Anti-choice activists are working hard in the Minnesota State Legislature, the courts, and Congress to take away our rights.
Access to Abortion
Making abortion access more difficult and dangerous is a key tactic of the anti-choice movement. Even with Roe v. Wade's protections still in place, 87 percent of U.S. counties (and 96 percent of Minnesota counties) have no abortion provider. Yet anti-choice lawmakers continue to impose a broad range of restrictions on women and their doctors, making abortion difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, to obtain.
The anti-choice movement's ultimate goal is to outlaw abortion in all circumstances. While some states still have laws on the books that would ban abortion throughout pregnancy, Roe v. Wade's protections prevent these bans' enforcement. However, state legislatures across the country continue to consider enacting new total bans in order to challenge Roe in the courts. In addition, in the majority of state legislatures and Congress, anti-choice lawmakers have passed unconstitutional laws that would ban safe and medically appropriate abortion as early as the 12th week of pregnancy.
RU 486 (Non-Surgical/Medical Abortion)
In 2000, the FDA approved RU 486 (also called mifepristone, non-surgical abortion, or medical abortion), giving American women the option to end an unintended pregnancy without surgery. Although millions of women have safely used RU 486 worldwide since 1981, anti-choice lawmakers and groups fought FDA approval every step of the way; having failed, they are now doing everything they can to make it difficult – or even impossible – to obtain. (RU 486 should not be confused with emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after" pill, which is a basic form of birth control that prevents pregnancy and does not cause abortion.)