Has The Fight For Abortion Rights Been Lost?

Getting an abortion is more difficult today than at any point since the 1970s. Is the pro-choice movement losing the battle?

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Jamie Chung for TIME

A patient at Red River clinic awaits consultation with a doctor

TIME Magazine, Jan. 14, 2013

Cover Photograph by Jamie Chung for TIME

In January 1973, the Supreme Court made access to abortion a federally protected right. As I write in this week’s TIME cover story, that seemingly decisive victory 40 years ago kicked off a war that the pro-choice movement has been losing ever since. In many parts of the country today, obtaining an abortion is more difficult than at any point since the 1970s.

There are fewer doctors willing to perform the procedure and fewer abortion clinics open for business. Pro-choice activists have been outflanked by their prolife counterparts, who have successfully lobbied for state-based regulations that limit access. Scores of states now require women to undergo counseling, waiting periods or ultrasounds prior to obtaining abortions. Minors across the country must often get permission from their parents if they want to terminate pregnancies. And pro-life state legislators are passing laws that require clinics to comply with arcane requirements—such as a hallway having to be more than five feet wide— that make it difficult for them to stay open.

(Viewpoint: Pro-life and Feminism Aren’t Mutually Exclusive)

The pro-life cause has been winning the abortion war, in part, because it has pursued an organized and well-executed strategy. But public opinion is also increasingly on their side. Thanks to prenatal ultrasound and advanced neonatology, Americans now understand what a fetus looks like and that babies born as early as 24 weeks can now survive. Although three-quarters of Americans believe abortion should be legal in some or all cases, most support state laws regulating the procedure and fewer and fewer are identifying themselves as “pro-choice” in public opinion surveys.

The prochoice establishment has also been hampered by a generational divide within the cause. Young abortion rights activists today complain that the leaders of feminist organizations, who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided, aren’t eager to pass the torch to a new generation whose activism is more nimble and Internet-based. But the most pressing challenge for prochoice activists may simply be that abortion is legal. In a dynamic democracy like America, defending the status quo is always harder than fighting to change it.

MORE: Read TIME’s cover story, “What Choice?” By Kate Pickert

225 comments
echo11
echo11

I am pro-life and I am proud.  I am the youth of America and my peers and I will NEVER give up the fight.  We are a new generation and we will continue in our war - equality for babies!  Protect the vulnerable and helpless!


The Pro Life March in Washington DC has grown bigger and bigger by the year.  In the next 50 years, my generation is going to end abortion.

wrathbrow
wrathbrow

Oh I got your point. I agree that most abortion are done to unwanted babies, that include rapes (small portion) and other incidents.

But your solution of don't do it (have sex) or use protection, while true really does not address the real world. If all it took was saying 'don't do it' then we could cure obesity, STD's, alcoholism, all additions, speeding, the list goes on.

I'm no fan of abortions and dislike anyone who uses it as birth control. My point is no one and life is not perfect. So reduce unwanted in the first place via on going eduction, programs. But that does not cover all of the real world and like it or not, abortions are effective in not bringing unwanted children in to the world. Doe they kill a child? I'd say it kills a potential child. Once the cells reach a stage where the brain is processing more that nerve like automatic responses then it becomes a human/child.

truthhurts
truthhurts

As a woman that has made the decision to abort child. After 13 years I still think of hIM and what life would have been like had my decision been different. I regret with all my heart my choice a choice I feel at this time should not have been mine. My choice should have been to USE BIRTH CONTROL... It's available at every gas station. I have never met a women that did not eventually regret this decision  Having an abortion does not take away the fact or the memory that u were pregnant with a child not a clump of cells. Sorry to step on the toes of those that have not lived through this decision, but until ur there u have no idea...

peter204
peter204

Thank you so much for responding!  You offer a perspective that I have never heard before and I am very grateful for that.  I think your stance on this is so valuable because you were in that position, yet you have changed your viewpoint with time and experience.  I would greatly appreciate it if you shared your viewpoint on the role of men in making policy on this issue.  Do men have the right to tell women what to do with their bodies? While this question may seem obvious in most situations, it is not a black and white situation when it comes to abortion.  Also, how do you feel abortion policy should handle rape situations?  For me, that has always been a critical point when it comes to my viewpoint on abortion.  I don't understand how women who have been forced to become pregnant can then be forced to keep the child and deal with a lifetime of possible hatred for such child.  I would love to hear your opinion!

Joyrunr
Joyrunr

Dear Peter and all men willing to fight for these women ~ I would encourage you to fight with loving compassion for the woman that finds herself pregnant before she feels ready to be a mother.... I was there! I was that woman. Abortion seems like a good option, especially if no one has to know about what would be an 'untimely' pregnancy. But it comes with SCARS SO DEEP AND TRUE that it is ultimately the greatest error in judgment a woman can make... TO HER VERY CORE SHE WILL KNOW THIS. Eventually, if she is willing to think of the reality and TRUTH of it... She will have to face that she decided that killing the baby would be THE BEST FOR HER at that time & moment. Think Peter, THINK!

peter204
peter204

Personally, I am pro choice.  However, I understand that religion and belief in the life of a fetus provide reasoning behind the pro life stance.  One thing that I believe needs to be debated just as much as religious or fetal rights is the right of the woman.  If a fetus is also a part of a woman's body, does she not have a say in what happens to her body?  I am a student and have received an assignment requiring me to participate in online political deliberation.  I would greatly appreciate productive feedback and discussion on this critical topic.  How can we settle the debate on the rights of women when it comes to abortion?

Joyrunr
Joyrunr

Pro-lifers are for the life of the baby human that you prefer to call a fetus (which also just means baby human in the womb).

The death penalty is for the criminal who’s guilt was determined by the judicial system.

Abortion is the death of the innocent unborn baby (fetus) that was determined by the judicial system to be a penalty of procreation.

The prolifer may or may not support the criminal’s guilt being worthy of his death... but the innocent unborn baby’s death should never have been justified!

Mikal
Mikal

@ErihuTalon@Mikal You just don't listen! 21 weeks isn't a late term abortion..Some states wont say that until after 25 weeks.Have you had much luck finding a place that abort after 25 weeks? No, because it's illegal.Don't write again until you know what you're talking about and you got facts to back it up..In fact your facts are misguided, because you don't know how to use Criticalthinking LTA are illegal in the USA not my opinion the supreme court ruling of 2007 and there's no exception or another procedure that calls later abortions Just in the nick of time abortions

Joyrunr
Joyrunr

Wow! Lucy2 ~ It is easy in your healthy independent body to make such a statement as you have. I think that there are enough people of good will (prolifers or prochoicers alike) that are willing to step up to the demands of the dependent human beings that our society would produce that are likely to warrant abortion in your world.

I don't agree at all that the world would be a better place if we didn't have dependent human beings in our society. Hitler tried it that way. He exterminated all of what he thought were the 'undesirables', the old in nursing homes, the mentally handicapped, etc... They all just starting disappearing from the Germany society. Where does the line stop? That human selection experiment got carried away.

The prolife side is NOT WILLING TO GIVE THE POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH OF THE INNOCENT OVER to any other. Once those cells start dividing on their own with the NEW INDIVIDUAL'S Human DNA that will be born if not 'messed' with ( ABORTED)...They are alive and should have a RIGHT TO LIFE LIKE YOUR WERE AFFORDED.

lucy2
lucy2

As both a medical professional and an atheist it is becoming incresingly difficult to understand the cruel and hypocritical view point of "pro-lifers".  You can not have it both ways. It is your right to believe that "god creates all life/a fetus is a soul"..... However- this buffet style attitude is revolting. It is against your god to abort a fetus, but perfectly acceptable to use hundreds and thousands of dollars keeping a terminal infant alive with intibation, respirators, exc.. (as was the case with baby k). As for me: "do no harm" is not the same as "alive". If you are so concerned with the "gift of life", may  I suggest housing a special needs and/or a foster child. Perhaps if you and all the other "advocates" out there spent a bit more time taking caring of all the discarded/unwanted "souls" already on this planet, the world would be a better place.

Joyrunr
Joyrunr

The argument about the baby being equal to an organ donoration program is not working. Apples to Oranges people.

We have to take into consideration that the baby IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PARENTS WHO FORMED THEM! If I decide that I use don't want my born children anymore...whom I participated in forming... I would have to go through some reasonable steps to still ensure the good welfare of those children because they are still dependant human beings. UNBORN BABIES fall into that category unlike a kidney that I just don't need because my Uncle Mike is going to die without getting it. I could let Uncle Mike die if I want but a parent has a responsibility to support and sustain the dependant children that they produce or create through their CHOICE TO PROCREATE.

OK. I know that you are going to throw the rape exceptions at me like I am an idiot... Ok those children that are produced by rape will all be automatic wards of the state that their mother doesn't even have to see after the birth if she so desires it that way. Done.

bmillercnm
bmillercnm

The discussion is couched in the wrong terms.  Abortion is not a choice, and life is not a right.  The crux of the matter is that one person's right to anything, including life, ends at the boundary of someone else's skin.  If my adult son needed a doner kidney or liver and I was a match, I would give him my organs, or the blood in my veins for that matter, because I love him beyond reason, but no court would require me to do so, because his right to life ends at my skin.  No one has a right to someone else's body, be that person a fetus, or an independent  viable human being.  If a fetus has a right to my uterus, than, by the same argument, my adult sons have a right to my kidneys, and that is not a place I believe any moral society wants to go.  

Joyrunr
Joyrunr

I've been 'following' these comments for about a week.

My comment in over-view is that some will not afford personhood, citizenship or human with rights to an unborn baby (those are the pro-choice). The other side (those on the Pro-life side) of the argument is that some do afford personhood, citizenship and the inalienable rights of a human to the unborn baby.

As best as the lump of cells that I am is able to think, determine and figure out, I would say that once the cells start dividing and growing on their own with a new human DNA that will become if it isn’t ‘messed with’, vacuumed, salted, punctured, dismembered with instruments is person with an independent and different blood type, heart beat, finger print, hair type, eye color, etc., (spirit and soul).

A person is a person not matter how small. Just because a few hand picked judges determined that they weren’t educated enough to call those unborn lumps of cells human 40 years ago doesn’t mean that it isn’t still true. A PERSON IS A PERSON NO MATTER HOW SMALL! and as Archbishop Fulton Sheen so beautifully stated, ‘The truth is the truth even if no one believes it, and a lie is a lie even if everyone believes it’.

Now let the insults commence by all of the people that disagree with me and the inconvenient truth that these babies should not be allowed by law to be terminated, killed, murdered, aborted by the mother, doctor or hand picked judges.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

I personally would never condone an abortion with regards to my life... I find it disturbing.


But I find the idea of forcing others to accept my morality or worse my religious BS at gunpoint is a far greater crime... Subjugation of others at gunpoint to accept pro-life garbage by forcing women into giving birth is disgusting.


Nobody should be enforcing morality on anybody.

Alareshu
Alareshu

God...these comments generate an awful feeling for me. Sometimes I hate humanity.

And uh, I'm pro-choice. Before y'all get all up in my space.

NatalieTschiedel
NatalieTschiedel

When you support civil rights, such as owning guns that can be used to kill any life, you should support a woman's right to choose what she can do with or for her body.

Mikal
Mikal

You just entered the realms of idiocy.For those who still care about this topic, a ban does prevent someone from doing something, and that something is late-term-abortions.It isn't a flavor you nut! It's an abortion for a baby that's almost grown.I'm not going to continue to argue with you, you're obviously obsessed with being right, when you're wrong. I have other things to do

chriswhalencpa
chriswhalencpa

Yes, as technology advances the term "abortion" will no longer have a meaning at it won't exist.

The viability of a fetus outside of the womb, has always been the important determining point at which points in a pregnancy term abortions are legal.

So, everyday advances in science are allowing younger and younger fetuses to live outside the mother.

Sometime in the not so distant future, a newly fertilized egg will be able to be gestated outside of the mother completely.

So "abortion" clinics, as we know them today, will no longer be legal. Yes, women must always have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies, but under the new paradigm, there will be no need to choose between the life and rights of the mother and the life and rights of her unborn child, no matter at what stage of it development. 

Think about it. A pregnant woman goes in for a procedure, yes, but now it will be a rescue operation. Her rights are respected 100% but of course if that young fetus can survive outside of the mother, as the law stands now, that fetus will be saved. 

So suddenly RESCUE clinics replace abortion clinics and they start popping up all over the place. Of course it is a woman's right to choose what is within her own body, but now that becomes something completely different right?

Now the pro abortionists have a problem, because technically abortion will no longer exist as we know it. When the "choice" changes from "Rights of The Woman versus Killing a Fetus" to "Rights of The Woman versus Removing Unborn Child from Woman's Womb to be Gestated Elsewhere" suddenly there is no longer any disagreement between the  pro abortionists (choice) groups and pro life groups. 

Imagine in Congress on the day when technology has advanced to the point where a newly fertilized egg is viable outside the womb.

Pro Lifers will push for legislation that says 1) Yes, a woman has a right to choose, but of course, just as we have always done, the point at which a fetus is viable outside the womb, is the point at which we as a society make abortions illegal. 2) Yes, you can remove a fetus growing fetus from your womb, that is your right, but of course we must save that fetus and you can go on your way.!

What will the pro choice groups do then? What is their new slogan? Woman have the right to not only remove a fetus, but also tell society that we cannot save the fetus now? Will liberals attempt to say that now a fetus is their "property" and that the greater society has no right to it at all? 

That will not work.. and as I have said, everyone will win. Women who do not want to have children, will never be forced to have them. Loving people who want children so badly will now have an enormous supply of unwanted children that they can adopt. 

Truly a Win Win. 

The good outcome will be finally all women will be forced to think about what is truly happening. Before they get pregnant they will realize that abortions where a fetus is murdered and discarded as waste, are no longer an option. Now, two viable living beings will always be leaving the "clinic."  I believe this will have the most profound impact on society in the best way possible.

Joyrunr
Joyrunr

I really wish that someone in the media would be brave enough to run the March for Life that happens every January in Washington, D.C. and now in CA. I understand that there are about a half a million people that March each year! That should be covered by the media no matter what the topic of protest is! I wonder if this Pickert is finally going to be the brave mainstream reporter to cover that kind and size of a protest truthfully or if there will be another.
I am finally able to send my oldest of 7 at 14 years old. I expect that these protests will just keep growing as all of the abortion advocates abort their children and all of us that disagree have children that reach the age that can join the March.
Someday some brave reporter that has the nation's news 'stage' will speak out and cover it objectively. It is only a matter of time since it will only grow from here forward.

c.adam.flynn
c.adam.flynn

"There are fewer doctors willing to perform the procedure and fewer abortion clinics open for business."

-if it is a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, then it is a doctor's right to refuse to perform it if it goes against his or her ethical or moral code (unless the mother's life is in danger due to pregnancy complications. then, of course, his or her hippocratic oath would most likely kick in)

"Minors across the country must often get permission from their parents if they want to terminate pregnancies"

-no doctor who cares about his or her patients (and malpractice insurance) is going to perform a serious operation on a minor if said minor's legal guardians object.  This goes for any procedure, not just abortion.

JanetEv
JanetEv

Rape is not about the sexual act, it is about control.  Pro-life is another form of rape, controlling a woman.  Pro-life = pro-rape.

Brianng
Brianng

I realize there is a legal aspect to this issue but when it overpowers the common sense aspect, a lot of people get lost for the rhetoric. The hard-core pro-lifers say that easier access to contraception increases abortion which makes no sense. Free contraception, easy to obtain and NOT from Planned Parenthood but from your neighborhood school nurse would help. The hard core pro-choice say that abortion well into the third trimester should be legal. And so our national conversation includes the definition of rape. This is where the hard core feminists AND the lawyers and politicians lost me. Ridiculous. Both extremes of this argument have lost the average citizen.

EvgeniaBanovich
EvgeniaBanovich

The main problem with abortion on demand is that it makes life fundamentally very cheap and expendable, no matter how much our society tries to pretend to feel otherwise.

Abortion on demand makes the woman's, the man's and the society's lives more convenient, but at what cost? At the cost of making everyone's life conditional not even so much on whether or not their mother wanted to conceive them - let's face it, your mother didn't know she'd be conceiving you personally, even if you happened to be a "planned baby".

Rather, your life was at one point conditional on whether or not your mother thought you were valuable enough to her to be kept alive. Which means that the value of a human life is not an absolute, but merely a matter of somebody else's opinion. And that is pretty cheap, my friends, even if your mother and other people around you have developed the highest opinion of you since you came out of your mother's womb.

As a person, who would have been aborted had I not been a "wanted" firstborn (the child who was conceived by my parents a mere six months after I was born was aborted, as were two more of my younger siblings), I'm very painfully aware of how cheap my life was at its most vulnerable. Which is why I don't think it's too much to ask of women to treat life, which depends on them, with the same categorical respect they wish to receive themselves.

SharonSpeerMarshall
SharonSpeerMarshall

I think the pro-abortion group exercised their right to abort their children, while the pro-life group exercised their right to keep their babies, raise them - with pro-life values. Now those babies are the grown-up young people in universities and businesses around the world. I think the pro-abortion group is making itself extinct.

Mikal
Mikal

"when the fertilized egg takes the DNA of the mother and the DNA of the father and creates it's own unique DNA when it begins to divide"  I'm not unreasonable, and I like common ground.So if I agree with this definition, how long does this process take, so that one could undo or interrupt the evolution?The pill's description suggest within 72 hrs, I think this is a good period to target and kill away anything you don't want going on in "your body" Sounds good to me.What you don't didn't know you had sex? I like contraception as the best alternative, but what I'm saying is, do you really need to wait til you have a fully formed fetus to decide you didn't want it? So people who have abortions wait til the last minute, which isn't necessary in 2013

AaronScott
AaronScott

Well, if abortion rights are being limited, I'm thinking babies are winning.  How sad that we think that because legalized destruction of a child is "limited" that somehow a basic right has been denied.  No, a basic right has been protected: LIFE.

lookitup
lookitup

No, the fight has not been lost.  Keep in mind, many of the measures limiting abortion are based in ignorance and achieved through coercion, threats and even violence.  The goal *ought* to be less unplanned pregnancies, achievable through contraception and education.  Ironically, many of the folks who are anti-choice are also anti the tools of prevention.  Women are finally waking up to their rights being lost through asinine legislation and misinformation.

Nowhere1111
Nowhere1111

So SAD the Pro Life people don't care about the young unwanted kids ALREADY in this world whose mothers weren't ready or able to take care of children. Instead they choose to put MORE kids in POOR situations. They CHOOSE to spend time and money to get them IN this world BUT NOT help these kids once they're here. Statistics show MANY will end up in prison and/ or abused. I'll bet many also vote AGAINST more $$$ for extra police needed, social services to help them and the prisons needed.