The national debate over abortion has boiled again as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approached. Fueling the controversy now is that some states are trying to ban abortions earlier in a woman’s pregnancy — within the first trimester. Advocates have said it’s essentially an attempt to outlaw abortions altogether.
Why it matters
Religious belief drives much of the action and opinions on abortion, which continues to be one of the most emotional and divisive issues in the country. While federal legislation gets the most attention, state laws have been more likely to inspire the court rulings that have shaped current abortion laws.
- The anti-abortion group Americans United for Life offers a snapshot of U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving abortion.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an advocate of abortion rights, provides a fact sheet on U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion and reproductive rights, 1965-2007.
- Read the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which includes links to Supreme Court and Circuit Court cases that have cited Roe v. Wade.
Reports and studies
The Alan Guttmacher Institute has this overview on abortion in the United States.
- The website PollingReport.com has a variety of polls on abortion.
- The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a poll leading up to the 40-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling and found most Americans want to keep the decision from being overturned.
“The landscape of abortion bans, in one must-see map”
Read a March 28, 2013, blog post from the Washington Post that maps abortion bans across the country.
“Pennsylvania Tightens Abortion Rules Following Clinic Deaths”
Read a March 28, 2013, article from NPR about Pennsylvania increasing oversight at abortion facilities following a 2011 raid at a clinic.
“North Dakota’s New Laws Could Create an 800-Mile-Long Abortion Clinic-Free Zone”
Read a March 29, 2013, article from Slate about North Dakota’s governor signing a bill that would give the state the strictest abortion laws in the country.
“Kan. reports abortions dropped 5.4 percent in 2012”
Read a March 29, 2013, article about Kansas abortions dropping to the lowest reported number in 25 years. The dip is credited to legislation.
“Abortion bills clear Florida House panels”
Read a March 27, 2013, article from the Miami Herald about Florida’s legislature looking to ban abortions based on gender or race selection.
U.S. Supreme Court
The court hasn’t ruled on any major abortion cases since 2007 when it upheld the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in Gonzales v. Carhart. Some expect the court will eventually hear cases regarding fetal pain laws.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 outlawed the late-term abortion procedure that involved removing the brain of a fetus and delivering the dead infant.
In terms of health care, women with insurance from the federal government cannot get federal funds to cover an abortion except in cases of rape or incest or when the woman’s life is in danger. The Affordable Care Act, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, separates abortion coverage from other funds in private plans.
Arkansas passed a 12-week abortion ban in February 2013.
In March 2013, the North Dakota legislature passed a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban, which would make abortions illegal as soon as a heartbeat is dedicated–something that can happen within six weeks. Some advocates say the bill essentially bans all abortions.
Mississippi House passed a bill that would require a doctor to be present when a woman takes the initial pill to induce an abortion.
See the Alan Guttmacher Institute overview of state abortion laws. Some highlights: In 39 states, a licensed physician must be the person to perform abortions. In 41 states, there are laws prohibiting abortions after a certain point in a woman’s pregnancy. In more than half of states, a woman must wait after receiving counseling before getting an abortion.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a rundown of the status of parental notification laws ad waiting periods around the country.
- The Alan Guttmacher Institute’s state center offers state-by-state information on abortion laws. The institute is a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis and public education.
- The Center for Reproductive Rights, which favors abortion rights, offers this overview on state legislative trends.
Deirdre McQuade is assistant director for policy and communications for the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Russell Moore is director of the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today.
National Right to Life Committee
Jessica Rodgers is a spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C. Karen Cross is national political director.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, which works to foster “a culture in which all human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives.” He also leads the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which tracks religious persecution around the world.
Penny Young Nance
Penny Young Nance is CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, a women’s group committed to bringing biblical principles into all levels of public policy.
Troy Newman is president of Operation Rescue. The organization is known for buying and subsequently closing an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kan., and it now uses the building as its headquarters.
Judie Brown is president and co-founder of the Catholic American Life League in Virginia, which promotes anti-abortion legislation. Contact Paul Rondeau.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, of Baltimore, is a columnist and Orthodox Christian. She is author of Real Choices: Listening to Women; Looking for Alternatives to Abortion (Conciliar Press, 1997). She is also a pro-life advocate. Contact her via the form on her website.
Allan Sawyer is president of the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, headquartered in Holland, Mich.
Paul T. Stallsworth
The Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth is president of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality and the editor of its magazine, Lifewatch. He lives in Whiteville, N.C.
Insight for Living
Insight for Living is the Bible-teaching radio ministry of Chuck Swindoll dedicated to spreading the word of Christ through educational resources including significant scripture. Email through the website.
Eagle Forum is a socially conservative group founded in 1972 by Phyllis Schlafly dedicated to offering resources that promote conservative and religious qualities in American livelihood such as public policy, government, family integrity and private enterprise.
For abortion rights
Alexander C. Sanger
Alexander C. Sanger, grandson of reproductive rights activist Margaret Sanger, is chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. He wrote Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century (Public Affairs, 2004).
Jennifer Dalven is director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, which has been involved in the debate over health care workers refusing to provide services to women. Contact her through the media line.
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Ilyse Hogue is president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. The nonprofit advocacy group supports “near-universal contraception coverage.” The website lists affiliates around the country.
Debra Ness is president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in Washington D.C., that works to promote quality health care for women, including access to abortion. Contact communications assistant Cindy Romero.
Rebecca Wind is press contact for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization in New York and Washington, D.C., focused on sexual and reproductive health research and policy analysis.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Planned Parenthood Federation of America fights against legislation that limits access to abortions. Contact the media office.
Republicans for Choice
Ann Stone heads Republicans for Choice in Alexandria, Va., which says its aim is to remove politics from the abortion debate.
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington, D.C., pushes for more health care options for women, not fewer. It sponsors a National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality each year. Michael Mitchell is director of communications.
Jon O’Brien is president of Catholics for Choice, which believes that the individual conscience should be the keystone for moral decision-making on reproductive rights matters and that affordable contraception should be available to all.
Medical Students for Choice
Medical Students for Choice, based in Philadelphia, is a group formed by medical students in 1993 to make sure abortion procedures are taught in medical school.
Vicki Saporta is executive director of the National Abortion Federation in Washington, D.C., the professional association for abortion providers in North America.
David E. Joseph
David E. Joseph is senior vice president of operations at the Public Conversations Project, where he has facilitated dialogues between people and groups on opposing sides of the abortion debate.
- ReligiousTolerance.org offers this overview of various denominations’ stands on abortion.
- The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith coalition, lists official resolutions of religious groups that support the right to abortion.
- The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has posted a statement supporting the Roman Catholic Church’s stand against abortion.
- The Southern Baptist Convention’s statements on abortion are posted by the website Johnstonsarchive.net.
- Read the United Methodist Church’s official statement on abortion.
- See the Assemblies of God statement about the sanctity of human life.
- ReligiousTolerance.org has a listing of statements on abortion from various faith groups and other organizations.
- Read a summary of Jewish beliefs and thoughts on abortion.
- The Jewish Pro-Life Foundation website discusses alternatives to abortion.
- Read 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 lobbies both political parties to stop “coerced” abortions and support post-abortion therapy.
Abortion legislation in the states
- Search the news service Stateline.Org for the latest stories about abortion activity in the states.
- The Center for Reproductive Rights tracks abortion bills and legislation.
- 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.
Regional contacts for anti-abortion groups
- Concerned Women for America, whose mission is to bring biblical principles into all levels of public policy, lists state chapters.
- The National Right to Life Committee lists affiliates.
Regional contacts for groups that promote abortion rights
- Planned Parenthood lists centers across the nation.
- The American Civil Liberties Union lists offices across the country.
- NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, offers a list of affiliates around the country.
In the Northeast
Michele Dillon is associate 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 (University of Virginia Press, 1996). She is the author of Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith and Power.
Jack M. Balkin
Jack M. Balkin is a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School and an expert on abortion policy and the First Amendment.
Phillip Levine is the Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. He wrote Sex and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy, and the Economics of Fertility (Princeton University Press, 2004).
Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University. Tribe’s areas of expertise include abortion and church-state issues. He wrote the book Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes.
James Trussell is a professor of economics and public affairs and faculty associate with the Office of Population Research at Princeton University in New Jersey. He has an expertise in abortion and advocates making emergency contraception widely available as a means of reducing unintended pregnancies and runs a website on the topic.
Clyde Wilcox is professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He specializes in electoral behavior and public opinion and can comment on the Catholic vote, abortion, gun control, gay rights, church-state issues and other issues involving religion and politics. He wrote “Abortion, Gay Rights and Church-State Issues in the 2000 Campaign” for the book Religion and Liberal Democracy: Piety, Politics and Pluralism and he is the co-author of The Values Campaign? The Christian Right and the 2004 Elections.
Faye Ginsburg is professor of anthropology at New York University. She wrote the book Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (University of California Press, 1998).
Jonathan E. Brockopp
Jonathan E. Brockopp is associate professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. He edited the book Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War and Euthanasia, and he wrote an article on Shariah for the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World.
Rita Simon is university professor emerita 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 (Praeger Publishers, 1998).
Judith Hauptman is professor of Talmud and Rabbinic culture at Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. She wrote the article “Abortion: Where We Stand” for the journal United Synagogue Review.
N.E.H. Hull is a law professor at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., and co-author of Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History (University Press of Kansas, 2001).
Harvey Kornberg is associate professor of political science at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. He has expertise in abortion politics.
Marian Lief Palley
Marian Lief Palley is a professor emerita of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware in Newark and an expert on abortion politics.
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. and is also a professor of political science and women’s and gender studies. She is an expert on abortion politics.
Gerard Magill is the Vernon F. Gallagher Chair for the Integration of Science, Theology, Philosophy, and Law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he also teaches health care ethics. He co-edited Abortion and Public Policy: An Interdisciplinary Investigation Within the Catholic Tradition (Creighton University Press, 1996).
Stanley M. Hauerwas
Stanley M. Hauerwas is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke Divinity School 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.
Abdulaziz A. Sachedina
Abdulaziz A. Sachedina is a coordinator of the Islamic bioethics group of the International Association of Bioethics and is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He contributed the entry on bioethics for The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.
Alan Abramowitz is a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta and an expert on abortion politics.
Neal Devins is a professor of law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He is an expert on abortion law.
Simone M. Caron
Simone M. Caron is chair of the history department at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. She has studied the history of abortion.
In the South
Nancy Maveety is an associate professor of political science at Tulane University in New Orleans. She specializes in women’s issues.
Martha I. Morgan
Martha I. Morgan is a Robert S. Vance Professor Emerita of Law at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Her area of study is abortion rights.
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.
Donald P. Judges
Donald P. Judges is associate dean of graduate programs and experiential learning and a professor of law at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He is an expert on the conflict over abortion rights.
Diane E. Wall
Diane E. Wall is an associate professor emerita at Mississippi State University. She is an expert on women’s issues and the judiciary.
James Matthew Wilson
James Matthew Wilson is assistant professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He wrote the article “Blessed are the Poor: American Protestantism and Attitudes Toward Poverty and Welfare” for the Southeastern Political Review (1999) and the paper “Moral Visions and the New American Politics” for the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University (2003).
Robert M. Baird
Robert M. Baird is a professor and chairman of the philosophy department at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He co-edited the books Same-Sex Marriage: The Moral and Legal Debate, Caring for the Dying: Critical Issues at the Edge of Life, and The Ethics of Abortion: Pro-Life Vs. Pro-Choice.
In the Midwest
Charles E. Rice
Charles E. Rice is professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame law school in Indiana. 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).
Richard Duncan is a law professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert on abortion law.
Daniel C. Maguire
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. He is also president of the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, a multifaith organization of religious scholars interested in reproductive health and other issues.
Virginia Sapiro is a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on gender politics.
Timothy R. Johnson
Timothy R. Johnson is assistant 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 (Facts on File, 2003).
The Rev. Robert Spitzer is president of the Michigan-based Spitzer Center, which provides resources for businesses and educational institutions of the Catholic faith.
In the West
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 (CQ Press, 1999).
Deborah R. McFarlane
Deborah R. McFarlane is a professor in the department of political science at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She co-wrote the book The Politics of Fertility Control.
Ted G. Jelen
Ted G. Jelen is a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has followed religion and politics, including the participation of the Catholic Church and the role abortion politics plays. He co-edited the books Abortion Politics in the United States: Studies in Public Opinion and The One, the Few and the Many: Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective. He also co-wrote the book Between Two Absolutes: Public Opinion and the Politics of Abortion.
James C. Mohr
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 (Oxford University Press, 1979). 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.
Carole Joffe is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis. She wrote the article “Roe v. Wade at 30: What are the Prospects of Abortion Provision,” for the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (January 2003) and has written other articles examining abortion and morality.
John E. Seery
John E. Seery is a professor of politics at Pomona College in California. He is an expert on abortion politics and wrote the article “Moral Perfectionism and Abortion Politics” for the journal Polity (2001).