Abortion is a woman's right
- Strongly Support means you believe: Abortion is a private decision between a woman and her doctor. You believe in the `Right to Choose' and are strongly pro-choice. The right to abortion empowers women and is an important part of women's health rights and women's reproductive freedom. That right includes the right to a government subsidy for poor women who want an abortion.
- Support means you believe: Restricting `Partial-Birth Abortions' or other specific procedures is reasonable, but clinic access should be unfettered, since other women may choose differently than you. You are pro-choice, but believe that some restrictions are acceptable.
- Oppose means you believe: The fetus is a human being who has rights independent of its mother's rights. You are "pro-life." While abortion under certain circumstances might be tolerated, the basic rights belong to the fetus, not the mother.
- Strongly Oppose means you believe: Abortion is immoral because it kills a human being, and should never be tolerated. `Roe v. Wade' should be overturned and we should protest abortion clinics as other forms of injustice are protested.
This question is looking for your views on abortion rights in general. However you answer the above question would be similar to your response to these statements:
How do you decide between "Support" and "Strongly Support" when you agree with both the descriptions above? (Or between "Oppose" and "Strongly Oppose").
The strong positions are generally based on matters of PRINCIPLES where the regular support and oppose positions are based on PRACTICAL matters.
If you answer "No Opinion," this question is not counted in the VoteMatch answers for any candidate.
If you give a general answer of Support vs. Oppose, VoteMatch can more accurately match a candidate with your stand.
Don't worry so much about getting the strength of your answer exactly refined, or to think too hard about the exact wording of the question -- like candidates!
- Uphold Roe v. Wade
- No Litmus Test for nominees
- Enforce Clinic Access laws
- Oppose Strict Constructionist judges
- Strongly Support means you believe in the principle of the right to choose.
- Support means you believe that abortions will occur anyway so we should make them safe for practical reasons.
- Oppose means you believe more practical limitations are appropriate to make abortions rarer.
- Strongly Oppose means you believe that abortion violates the principle of taking a fetus' life.
Basic terminology of the abortion debate
- ‘Roe v. Wade’ refers to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
- ‘Right to Choose’ refers to a pro-choice stance, upholding Roe v. Wade.
- ‘Right to Life’ refers to a pro-life stance, seeking to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade
- Pro-life advocates refer to Roe v. Wade as an example of ‘Judicial Activism’ or ‘legislating from the bench’, i.e., that judges are making the law rather than interpreting it. In these terms, pro-life advocates believe in ‘Strict Constructionism’, or a literal interpretation of the Constitution with no implied rights.
- A ‘Litmus test’ requires Vice Presidential & Supreme Court nominees to agree with one’s abortion view.
- ‘The Human Life Amendment’ would be a Constitutional Amendment overturning Roe v. Wade. There is currently no such Amendment pending, but proponents regularly introduce ‘Human Life Bills’ in Congress.
- States’ Rights: Most pro-life legislation aims at overturning Roe v. Wade, which means returning the decision about abortion to the states. In contrast, a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution would ban abortion in all states. Overturning Roe v. Wade would NOT ban abortion -- it would then become a state decision, with some states allowing abortion and some restricting or banning it.
- Contraception is the surprise issue of the 2012 election campaign. It became relevant because ObamaCare requires that employers provide health insurance for employees, including contraceptives. At issue is when the employer is a church or other organization morally opposed to contraception. Conservatives call this a ‘freedom of religion’ issue; liberals call it a ‘war on women.’
Roe v. Wade
The essence of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision is that Constitutional rights apply only after birth; hence abortion does not breach a person’s right to life.
States cannot regulate 1st trimester abortions; states can regulate but not ban 2nd trimester abortions; and states can ban 3rd trimester abortions (as many have).
Planned Parenthood v. Casey
The “Casey” decision refers to the 1992 Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. The Supreme Court upheld the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which established the right to an abortion, but allowed restrictions on abortion. The Court cited the right to privacy, as well as “stare decisis,” which means that a longstanding legal precedent should not be overturned without a good reason.
The debate on abortion generally focuses on when human life begins.
The courts often focus on ‘viability’, the point at which the fetus could survive outside the womb.
- Viability naturally begins at about 6 months of pregnancy, but with modern medical advances the age of viability is pushed back substantially.
- Strong pro-life advocates believe that the fetus should be protected from the moment of conception.
The details of abortion legislation focus on what the states can regulate and what they can ban in later trimesters:
- ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’ refers to a late-term abortion method which induces a breech delivery and collapses the fetal skull before completing delivery.
This procedure is banned in 24 states, but pro-choice advocates, including President Clinton, have sought to overturn state laws with a federal ruling.
- In April 2000, the Supreme Court rejected a Nebraska law banning partial birth abortions.
- In June 2000, the Court said that the Nebraska ban was unconstitutional because it had no exceptions and barred second trimester abortions.
- Each state decides if ‘Parental Consent’ is required for teenagers seeking abortions.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that spousal consent cannot be required by the states.
- Each state also determines rules about ‘informed consent’, about 24-hour waiting periods, and about when viability occurs after the 1st trimester.
- In Nov. 2005, the Supreme Court heard the case ‘Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood,’ on the issue of parental consent (its first abortion case since 2000). They ruled in 2006 that states may require parental involvement, but not when it risks the health of the minor. No precedents were overturned nor set.
- In April 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the ban, but allowed for future cases about how it is applied.
Stem Cell Research
- ‘Stem Cells’ are undifferentiated cells, which are useful in research for cloning and for treating many diseases. Stem cells are best taken from human fetuses; hence the pro-life opposition. Many pro-life advocates support fetal stem cell research because of the medical potential. In 2001, Pres. Bush announced that the federal policy would be to allow fetal stem cell research on existing stem cell lines but not on new ones.
- ‘Embryonic Stem Cells’ are stem cells derived from embryos, newborn's umbilical cords, etc. The 2008 election debate focuses entirely on embryonic stem cell research, because adult stem cell research (with source cells from non-embryonic sources) is no longer controversial.
- Pro-life advocates generally oppose embryonic stem cell research because of its use of pre-born human source material.
There are notable exceptions, however, such as Nancy Reagan and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, UT) where otherwise pro-life people support embryonic stem cell research for its healthcare benefits.
- As with the rest of the abortion debate, defining the playing field has become important in stem cell research.
Defining stem cells as a healthcare issue is a pro-research stance.
Defining stem cells as an issue about sanctity of life (e.g., as related to human cloning) is an anti-research stance.
- Most relevantly to the 2008 elections, the terminology focuses on the term "embryonic".
Anti-research advocates will usually say they are "pro-stem cell research," omitting the key term "embryonic" to avoid alienating victims of diseases that might be cured by embryonic research.
pro-research advocates will often say they are "for ALL stem cell research," omitting the controversial term "embryonic" to avoid alienating pro-life voters.
- Voters can discern candidates' views on the issue by listening to how the candidate describes adult stem cell research.
If the politician considers adult stem cell research just another form of stem cell research, morally equivalent to embryonic stem cell research, then they are pro-embryonic research.
If the politician sings the praises of adult stem cell research, for example, specifyinh medical accomplishments that arose from ADULT stem cells, then they are anti-embryonic research.
‘Clinic Access’ laws refer to what pro-life protesters may and may not do at the entrances to abortion clinics, and how far away they must stay.
Clinic access became an issue after several abortion clinics were bombed and several abortion doctors were shot in recent years.
‘RU-486’ is a drug that induces abortion in early pregnancy. In September 2000, after 12 years of study, the FDA approved the use of RU-486 until the 7th week of pregnancy.
‘Cloning’ is a rapidly advancing technology in which a fetus develops from only one parent. It has been successful in animals, and is entering trial stages with humans. Pro-life advocates generally oppose cloning on the same basis that they oppose abortion.
Buzzwords in the abortion debate
- Describing abortion as a health issue or as a women's rights issue is a pro-choice stance.
- Describing abortion as a moral issue or as an issue of balancing the mother's rights with the fetus' rights, is a pro-life stance.
- Both sides of the abortion debate attempt to define the playing-field in their favor by terminology.
The pro-life name for pro-choice proponents is "pro-abortion", and the pro-choice name for pro=life proponents is "anti-choice".
Using either of those charged terms defines the speaker as strongly one-sided (hence this website uses the more neutral terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice").
- Any reference to "the rights of the unborn’ is a strong pro-life stance, as is defining life ‘from the moment of conception.’
- Any reference to ‘the rights of the mother’ is a strong pro-choice stance, as is defining a ‘right to privacy" (between a woman and her doctor).
- As mentioned above, the most obscure buzzword is that supporting ‘judicial activism’ implies a pro-choice stance, while supporting ‘strict constructionism’ implies a pro-life stance.
In nominations for Supreme Court justices, asking this question is the archetypical ‘Litmus Test’ -- liberal Senators spent many hours questioning Clarence Thomas on whether he held a Strict Constructionist view of the Constitution (he did not admit so).
- For serious policy wonks, the most important abortion buzzword is ‘Stare Decisis’ -- that is the basis upon which Clarence Thomas declined to rule against Roe v. Wade. Thomas meant that although he would have ruled against Roe v. Wade in 1973, he would not do so now because the 1973 Supreme Court ruling had been in force for a quarter century and hence has precedential weight.