The anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion always sparks discussions about this hot-button issue, and the annual March for Life in Washington is one focus of attention. But the Republican takeover of the House has also raised hopes — and concerns — that new legislation could limit abortion rights.
The push to repeal health-care reform is driven in part by concerns among some abortion opponents that the legislation funds the procedure. That effort is expected to fail because Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate and any repeal measure would face a certain veto by President Barack Obama.
But there are a number of other avenues that Republican opponents of abortion rights believe can limit the availability of abortion. One is to pass a bill that would add guarantees that no taxpayer money could go toward abortion funding. Another suggestion is to pass a law ensuring conscience protections for health care workers who do not want to participate in abortions.
Another possibility is to use the House’s power of the purse strings to try to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers of reproductive services that include abortion.
The Republican tsunami that carried the GOP to control of the House (and led to the defeat of at least half of the 40 or so Democrats in Congress who were not abortion rights supporters) also swept through the nation’s statehouses. As a result, abortion opponents also hold out hope that state legislatures will continue to pass laws restricting abortion or will adopt measures like mandated ultrasounds for women contemplating an abortion.
This edition of ReligionLink provides resources to help reporters navigate the volatile issues at stake.
- The annual March for Life will take place on Monday, Jan. 24, two days after the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. A large crowd is expected, perhaps larger than usual given the issues in play and the passions being generated.
- The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, sent a letter to all members of Congress on Jan. 14 outlining the hierarchy’s legislative priorities. Opposition to abortion tops the list.
- Dolan led a group of religious leaders in New York City in decrying the city’s 41 percent abortion rate, as this Jan. 7 CBS/Associated Press story explains. The religious leaders called for pragmatic steps to make abortion “rare.”
- Read “Pro-life Efforts to Watch in 2011,” a Dec. 30, 2010, post at Christianity Today‘s politics blog.
- Read a Dec. 28, 2010, Washington Post story about the Supreme Court and abortion, titled “Tests of ‘Roe’ more frequent since justices upheld late-term abortion ban in ’07.”
- A large-scale survey from the Pew Forum released Oct. 1, 2009, shows that opposition to legal abortion is growing. The survey shows that the country is almost evenly divided between those who tend to support abortion rights (47 percent) and those who express opposition (44 percent). The poll also shows that positions on either pole seem to be hardening.
- The change in public opinion plus the shifting political landscape have forced abortion-rights groups to be far more active than they had expected in advancing their agenda and defending previous gains.
- The movement to pass so-called “personhood” amendments that would define an embryo as a person from the moment of conception and — organizers hope — effectively overturn abortion laws is gaining steam. A Jan. 8, 2010, Las Vegas Review-Journal story about a judge’s rejection of a personhood petition in Nevada says similar efforts are under way in 30 states, though they have yet to pass.
- Dr. George R. Tiller, who provided late-term abortions in Wichita, Kan., was shot to death in May 2009 in the foyer of his church as he handed out church bulletins. His death was considered a setback for both advocates and opponents of abortion rights.
- Abortion opponents saw a parallel to the Tiller slaying in the Sept. 11, 2009, shooting death of a sidewalk abortion protester in Michigan, James Pouillon. The motive for the Pouillon killing was not clear; authorities have said that the suspect in the case, Harlan Drake of Owosso, killed another man that morning and planned a third shooting, both apparently unrelated to abortion. But some abortion opponents focused on Pouillon’s death as an example of violence against abortion protesters.
In July 2009, Obama appointed Regina M. Benjamin, a Catholic who attended a Catholic elementary school in her hometown of Daphne, Ala., as surgeon general. There is speculation about how her beliefs might affect her policy stances on issues like abortion and contraception.
A number of bills involving abortion are pending or are set to be introduced in the new Congress.
U.S. SUPREME COURT
The high court’s two newest members are Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Abortion opponents voiced concerns during Kagan’s confirmation process last year that she would prove to be “reliably pro-abortion,” although she had written relatively little on the subject. During Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings in 2009, she said she considers Roe v. Wade to be “settled law,” a phrase used by earlier Republican nominees. Sotomayor said states should not put an undue burden on pregnant women seeking an abortion before a fetus has reached viability, meaning the baby could live on its own.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published a report in September 2008 on key U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion.
Read the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The page includes links to Supreme Court and Circuit Court cases that have cited Roe v. Wade.
IN THE STATES
Experts say that abortion opponents, predicting that federal action for their agenda will be difficult with Obama in the White House and Democrats still in control of the Senate, are turning to state legislatures to advance their cause. Here are some recent developments, according to Stateline.org:
- Georgia approved the country’s first law allowing human embryos to be adopted. Opponents say the measure is a backdoor attempt to grant legal rights to embryos.
- Arizona became the 22nd state to require 24-hour waiting periods for women seeking abortions. Minors must show proof of parental consent.
- Arkansas in 2010 became the 15th state to ban the late-term abortion procedure known as partial-birth abortion.
- Kansas, Ohio and North Dakota now require clinics to post notices informing women they cannot be coerced into having an abortion.
- Kansas and North Dakota have new laws requiring doctors to offer women considering abortion the option of viewing an ultrasound photo of the fetus before they decide.
- Utah joined eight other states to have a “fetal pain” law that requires doctors to offer women the option of receiving anesthesia for the fetus before an abortion.
Overviews of religious beliefs
- Beliefnet.com posts a chart, “What do world religions believe about abortion?”
- The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life offers a comprehensive backgrounder on abortion. The page includes this September 2008 report on religious beliefs on abortion.
- The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith coalition of 40 groups, lists official resolutions of religious groups that support the right to abortion.
- ReligiousTolerance.org offers this overview of various denominations’ stands on abortion.
- More than 1,100 clergy and religious professionals have signed an open letter “affirming abortion as a morally justifiable decision.” The letter was organized under the auspices of the Religious Institute, a leading interfaith organization promoting sexual and reproductive rights.
- See the Assemblies of God statement against abortion.
- The Southern Baptist Convention’s statements on abortion are posted by the website Johnstonsarchive.net.
- ReligiousTolerance.org has a listing of statements on abortion from various faith groups and other organizations.
- Read the United Methodist Church’s official statement on abortion.
- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted a statement supporting the Roman Catholic Church’s stand against abortion.
- A white paper from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice discusses Jewish perspectives on abortion.
- ReligiousTolerance.org summarizes Jewish beliefs on abortion.
- On IslamOnline, a Muslim religious scholar writes about Islam’s stance on abortion.
- The website ReligiousConsultation.org, which focuses on reproductive issues, offers this essay on Islamic thoughts on abortion.
- The website AfterAbortion.org offers a listing of people and ministries around the country that offer post-abortion counseling. The group behind the site is lobbying both political parties to stop coerced abortions and support post-abortion therapy.
STUDIES AND STATISTICS
- The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has a resources page with summaries of surveys and other indicators of American views on abortion.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts regular “abortion surveillance” abstracts, which document the numbers of legal abortions reported to the federal government. The latest online abstract is for 2006.
- The Guttmacher Institute posts an overview on abortion in the United States. Among its findings: 78 percent of women having abortions report a religious affiliation.
- A May 2009 Gallup survey found that most Americans were identifying as pro-life for the first time since it began asking the question in 1995. The development led to speculation about a sea change on abortion after the relative stasis of recent decades. But a follow-up poll in July showed a return to a near split. Trinity College’s Mark Silk analyzed the shifts at his blog, Spiritual Politics.
- The “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels do not necessarily reflect respondents’ view on the legality of abortion, however. And it appears a small but steady majority of Americans remain in favor of legalized abortion. An August 2008 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 54 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
- The website PollingReport.com has a variety of polls on abortion.
- Read an Aug. 20, 2009, CNN story on where the Rev. Jim Wallis and Tony Perkins agree on abortion.
- Read an Aug. 19, 2009, New York Times story about abortion in Oklahoma.
- Read an Aug. 15, 2009, Newsweek story about a reporter who witnessed an abortion, and why her reaction surprised her.
- Read a July 18, 2009, Washington Post story on how Obama’s new surgeon general’s stance on abortion may conflict with her Catholic upbringing.
- Read a July 16, 2009, Los Angeles Times story on Sotomayor’s statements on abortion during her confirmation hearings.
- Read a June 8, 2009, Washington Post story on why some anti-abortion efforts are moving to the state level.
- Read a June 7, 2009, New York Times story on where Tiller’s death left the anti-abortion movement.
- Read a May 17, 2009, New York Times story on Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame, which sparked debate on abortion.
ORGANIZATIONS AGAINST ABORTION RIGHTS
- Dr. Donna Harrison of Eau Claire, Mich., is president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Contact the organization at 616-546-2639.
- Jay Sekulow is head of the American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm working to end abortion. Contact 757-226-2489.
- Judie Brown is president and co-founder of American Life League in Virginia, which promotes anti-abortion legislation. Contact 540-659-4171.
- Americans United for Life describes itself as “the first national pro-life organization in America.” Charmaine Yoest is president of the Chicago-based group. Contact through communications director Matthew Eppinette, 312-568-4701, email@example.com.
- Wendy Wright is president of Concerned Women for America, which aims to bring biblical principles into all levels of public policy. Contact 202-488-7000.
- Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a frequent commentator on abortion and politics. Contact through Jill Waggoner, 615-782-8416, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, which is active in pushing anti-abortion legislation. Contact Maria Donovan, 202-393-2100.
- Feminists for Life of America, based in Alexandria, Va., opposes abortion in part through programs that push to expand resources and services for pregnant women on college campuses. Contact 703-836-3354, email@example.com.
- Karen Cross is political director of the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C. The organization’s website lists affiliates. Contact 202-626-8800, NRLC@nrlc.org.
- Randall Terry is founder of Operation Rescue and president of the Society for Truth and Justice. Contact Kathy Veritas, 904-687-9804.
- Prolife America posts links to groups working to end abortion.
- Deirdre McQuade is assistant director for policy and communications for the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Contact 202-541-3070.
- The Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth is president of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality and editor of Lifewatch. He lives in Morehead City, N.C. Contact 252-726-2175.
ORGANIZATIONS FOR ABORTION RIGHTS
- The ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project believes reproductive freedom is a core civil liberty and works to ensure that everyone has access to reproductive health care. Jen Dalven is director. See a list of ACLU offices across the country. Contact the media office at 212-549-2666.
- The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals posts publications and resources on its website, including a list of links.
- Jon O’Brien is president of Catholics for Choice. Contact 202-986-6093.
- The Guttmacher Institute is a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis and public education. Press contact is Rebecca Wind, 212-248-1111, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Medical Students for Choice was formed by medical students in 1993 to make sure abortion procedures are taught in medical school. Contact 215-625-0800.
- Nancy Keenan is president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. The website lists affiliates around the country. Contact 202-973-3032.
- Vicki Saporta is executive director of the National Abortion Federation. Contact the communications department, 202-667-5881, email@example.com.
- Debra Ness is president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to promote quality health care for women, including access to abortion. Contact Jen Aulwes, health communications manager, 202-986-2600.
- Dr. Suzanne T. Poppema is chair of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. Contact through Amanda Davis, the group’s media manager, 646-649-9927, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America fights against legislation that limits access to abortions. The website lists centers across the nation. Contact 1-800-230-7526.
- The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice works to preserve reproductive rights. It lists denominations and other religious groups that are members. Contact its president, the Rev. Dr. Carlton W. Veazey, who founded the coalition’s Black Church Initiative, through communications director Marjorie Signer, 202-628-7700.
- Ann Stone heads Republicans for Choice in Alexandria, Va., which says its aim is to remove politics from the abortion debate. Contact 703-508-5897, email@example.com.
NATIONAL EXPERTS AGAINST ABORTION RIGHTS
- Teresa S. Collett is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, where she is described as a “passionate advocate for the protection of human life and the family.” She has assisted attorneys general in several states in defending laws restricting abortions. Contact through her assistant, Bethany Fletcher, 651-962-4830, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Robert George holds the McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton University and is founding director of its James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (2008). George wrote in the Aug. 6, 2007, edition of the journal First Things about what he calls the scandal of prominent Catholics supporting abortion rights. Contact 609-258-3270, email@example.com.
NATIONAL EXPERTS FOR ABORTION RIGHTS
- Caitlin E. Borgmann is an associate professor at City University of New York School of Law and editor of the Reproductive Rights Prof Blog, which posts news about abortion and other reproductive rights issues. Borgmann has testified before several state legislatures about reproductive rights. Contact 718-340-4503.
- Dr. Susan Wicklund is co-author of This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor. Contact through the book’s publisher, Public Affairs, 212-397-6666, PublicAffairs@perseusbooks.com.
OTHER NATIONAL EXPERTS
- David E. Joseph is program director at the Public Conversations Project, where he has facilitated dialogues between people and groups on opposing sides of the abortion debate. See an overview of the PCP’s abortion dialogues. Contact 617-923-1216, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Search Stateline.org for the latest in state activity on abortion. Stateline also posts a comprehensive backgrounder from 2007, “States probe limits of abortion policy.”
- The National Conference of State Legislatures’ website includes a page that links to information on abortion in the states.
- The Center for Reproductive Rights provides a rundown on abortion bills making their way through state legislatures.
- The National Organization for Women keeps track of abortion legislation on the state and federal levels.
- NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, offers a state-by-state look at abortion legislation.
- The Guttmacher Institute’s state center offers state-by-state information on abortion laws, trends and teen pregnancy rates.
- The anti-abortion group Americans United for Life rates states on “protection-of-life” issues. In addition, the organization’s State Supreme Court Project assesses each state’s high court and forecasts what to expect in those courts should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
- George J. Annas is professor and chairman of the health law department at the Boston University School of Public Health and an expert on abortion policy. Contact 617-638-4626, email@example.com.
- Jack M. Balkin is Knight professor of constitutional Law and the First Amendment and director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. He is an expert on abortion policy. Contact 203-432-1620, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Michele Dillon is professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. She wrote “The American Abortion Debate: Culture War or Normal Discourse?” for the book The American Culture Wars: Current Contests and Future Prospects. Contact 603-862-2925, email@example.com.
- Richard Fallon is a constitutional law professor at Harvard. His article “If ‘Roe’ Were Overruled: Abortion and the Constitution in a Post-Roe World” appeared in the St. Louis University Law Journal (2007). Contact 617-495-3215, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Phillip B. Levine is a professor in the economics department at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. He wrote Sex and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy and the Economics of Fertility. Contact 781-283-2162, email@example.com.
- Laurence H. Tribe is a constitutional lawyer and Harvard University law professor. He wrote the book Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes. Contact through assistant Kathleen Curley 617-495-3097, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jonathan E. Brockopp is associate professor of history and religious studies at Penn State. He edited the book Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War and Euthanasia. Contact 814-863-1338, email@example.com.
- Susan Carroll is senior scholar at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics at the Center for American Women and Politics in New Brunswick, N.J. She is an expert on abortion politics. Contact 732-932-9384 ext. 235, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Faye Ginsburg is an anthropology professor at New York University. She wrote the book Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community. Contact 212-998-8558, email@example.com.
- Judith Hauptman is the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. She wrote the article “Abortion: Where We Stand” for the journal United Synagogue Review. Contact 212-678-8000, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Harvey Kornberg is associate professor of political science at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. He has expertise in abortion politics. Contact 609-896-5365, email@example.com.
- Marian Lief Palley is a political science professor at the University of Delaware in Newark and an expert on abortion politics. Contact 302-831-1938, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rita J. Simon is professor of justice, law and society for the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C. She wrote the book Abortion: Statutes, Policies and Public Attitudes the World Over. Contact 202-885-2965, email@example.com.
- James Trussell is professor of economics and public affairs and director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. He has expertise on the topic of abortion. Contact 609-258-4946, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- W. Clyde Wilcox is a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He wrote “Abortion, Gay Rights and Church-State Issues in the 2000 Campaign” for the book Religion and Liberal Democracy: Piety, Politics and Pluralism. Contact 202-687-5273, email@example.com.
- Alan Abramowitz is a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta and an expert on abortion politics. Contact 404-727-0108, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Simone M. Caron is an associate professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. She has studied the history of abortion. Contact 336-758-5556, email@example.com.
- Neal Devins is a law professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He is an expert on abortion law. Contact 757-221-3845, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Stanley M. Hauerwas is professor of theological ethics at the Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, N.C. He wrote “Why Abortion Is a Religious Issue” for the book The Church and Abortion: In Search of New Ground for Response. Contact 919-660-3420 or through his assistant at email@example.com.
- Abdulaziz A. Sachedina is the Frances Myers Ball Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and wrote the entry on abortion for the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an. Contact 434-924-6725, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Christopher Tollefsen is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and co-author of the 2008 book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. Contact 803-786-1030, email@example.com.
- Donald P. Judges is a law professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He is an expert on the conflict over abortion rights. Contact 479-575-7571, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nancy Maveety is a political science professor at Tulane University in New Orleans who specializes in women’s issues. Contact 504-862-8300, email@example.com.
- Martha I. Morgan is a Robert S. Vance Professor of Law at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Her area of study is abortion rights. Contact 205-348-1131, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Kevin Wildes is president of Loyola University New Orleans. He wrote “The Sanctity of Human Life: Secular Moral Authority, Biomedicine and the Role of the State” for the book Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity. Contact email@example.com.
- Richard Duncan is a law professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert on abortion law. Contact 402-472-6044, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Timothy R. Johnson is Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul. He wrote the entry on Roe v. Wade for the Encyclopedia of American Religion and Politics. Contact 612-625-2907, email@example.com.
- Ellen S. Lazarus is a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and an expert in medical ethics and education and abortion politics. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Daniel C. Maguire is a theology professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee and editor of Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions. Contact 414-288-5508, email@example.com.
- Charles E. Rice is professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame law school. He wrote the article “Abortion, Euthanasia and the Need to Build a New Culture of Life” for the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy (1999). Contact 574-631-5667, Charles.E.Rice.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Robert M. Baird is a professor and chairman of the philosophy department at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He co-edited the book The Ethics of Abortion: Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice. Contact 254-710-3368, Robert_Baird@baylor.edu.
- Francis Beckwith is a professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He wrote Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice. Contact 254-710-6464, Francis_Beckwith@baylor.edu.
- Deborah R. McFarlane is a political science professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She co-wrote the book The Politics of Fertility Control. Contact 505-277-7130, email@example.com.
- Barbara Norrander is a political science professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She co-wrote the entry “Public Opinion and Policymaking in the States: The Case of Post-Roe Abortion Policy” for the book The Public Clash of Private Values: The Politics of Morality Policy. Contact 520-621-7600, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- J. Matthew Wilson is a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is an expert on abortion politics. Contact 214-768-4054, email@example.com.
- Ted G. Jelen is a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has followed the role abortion politics plays in elections. He co-edited the book Abortion Politics in the United States: Studies in Public Opinion and co-wrote the book Between Two Absolutes: Public Opinion and the Politics of Abortion. Contact 702-895-3355, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- James C. Mohr is a history professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He is a nationally recognized expert on the abortion issue and author of Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy. He writes that the abortion debate has become a symbolic focal point for a variety of social issues. As a result, abortion politics now has an influence in Congress, the federal judiciary and American foreign policy. Contact 541-346-5903, email@example.com.
- Melody Rose is chair of the political science division of Portland State University’s Mark O. Hatfield School of Government. She founded and directs National Education for Women’s Leadership Oregon, and she is the author of Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide (2008) and Safe, Legal and Unavailable?: Abortion Politics in the United States. Contact 503-725-3137, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- John E. Seery is a professor of politics at Pomona College in Pomona, Calif. He is an expert on abortion politics and wrote the article “Moral Perfectionism and Abortion Politics” for the journal Polity (2001). Contact 909-607-2458, John_Seery@pomona.edu.
- The Rev. Robert Spitzer is president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. He wrote the book The Right to Life Movement and Third Party Politics. Contact 509-328-4200, email@example.com.
Updated from a Sept. 21, 2009, edition.