Forty years of Roe v. Wade: Covering the ongoing debate over abortion

The 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion fell on Jan. 22, 2013, and March for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C., was held three days later. Debate over this hot-button issue is as intense as ever, yet it’s unclear that either opponents or supporters of abortion rights are winning.

2012 surveys show that a slight majority of Americans consistently want to keep abortion legal in most or all cases, while about 40 percent would like to see abortion outlawed in most or all cases. According to research from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a somewhat larger majority consistently supports the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Moreover, white evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group in which a majority – 54 percent – favors completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, rhetoric by some Republican candidates about abortion and rape was seen as so over the top that GOP leaders – including presidential nominee Mitt Romney – distanced themselves from the remarks and even declared they would not seek to overturn the Roe ruling. On the other hand, pregnancy centers manned largely by Christian opponents of abortion are proliferating, while funding for Planned Parenthood is under attack from many quarters.

Against this variegated backdrop, ReligionLink provides a list of expert sources and organizations and advocacy groups on all sides to help reporters covering this highly charged moral and religious issue.


Where things stand

  • “Abortion” at OpenCongress

    An open-source project of the nonprofit Participatory Politics Foundation, tracks bills involving abortion. As with all open-source sites, journalists should verify information found there before using.

  • The high court’s two newest members are Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Abortion opponents voiced concerns during Kagan’s confirmation process in 2010 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.
  • Roe v. Wade, 1973

    The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The page includes links to Supreme Court and Circuit Court cases that have cited Roe v. Wade.

Overview of religious beliefs regarding abortion

Christian resources

Jewish resources

Muslim resources

Abortion-related ministries

  • “Post-Abortion Resources”

    The website 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


More articles

National sources

Organizations against abortion rights

  • American Center for Law and Justice

    The American Center for Law and Justice is a politically conservative, Christian-based legal organization in the United States. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and associated with Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

    The American Center for Law and Justice is  a law firm working to end abortion. Jay Sekulow is chief counsel.

  • Family Research Council

    The Family Research Council is a Christian organization promoting the traditional family unit and the Judeo-Christian value system. Press contacts are J.P. Duffy or Alice Chao.

    The Family Research Council says that thanks to the work of those who oppose abortion, the abortion industry “is going down and everyone knows it.” Tony Perkins is FRC president.

    Contact: 866-372-6397.

Organizations for abortion rights

  • ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

    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. Louise Melling is director. See a list of ACLU offices across the country.

  • Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

    Posts publications and resources on its Web site, including a list of links. Beth Robbins is media contact.

  • Catholics for Choice

    Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 to give a voice to those “who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience” on matters of reproductive health.

    Contact: 202-986-6093.
  • Guttmacher Institute

    The Guttmache Institute seeks to advance sexual and reproductive health through research, policy analysis and public education. Contact Rebecca Wind.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Vicki Saporta

    Vicki Saporta is executive director of the National Abortion Federation in Washington, D.C., the professional association for abortion providers in North America.

  • Debra Ness

    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.

  • Physicians for Reproductive Health

    Physicians for Reproductive Health seeks to improve access to reproductive health care, including abortion. Jodi Magee is president and CEO.

  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America fights against legislation that limits access to abortions. Contact the media office.

  • 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.

  • Republicans for Choice

    Ann Stone heads Republicans for Choice in Alexandria, Va., which says its aim is to remove politics from the abortion debate.

National experts against abortion rights

  • Teresa S. Collett

    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.

National experts for abortion rights

Other national experts

  • 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.

Legal resources

  • Supreme Court of the United States

    The official website of the Supreme Court of the United States posts background information about the court, as well as court decisions and arguments.

    Contact: 202-479-3000.
  • United States courts

    The website of the federal judiciary — which includes the U.S. Court of Appeals, district courts and bankruptcy courts — posts court records, judicial statistics and information on judges. Contact through the website.

  • post links to case law and texts. Contact through the website.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • George Annas

    George Annas is professor and chairman of the health law department at the Boston University School of Public Health and an expert on abortion policy, embryo research, stem cells and end-of-life research.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Susan Carroll

    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.

  • Michele Dillon

    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.

  • Richard Fallon

    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). 

  • Faye Ginsburg

    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).

  • Judith Hauptman

    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.

  • Harvey Kornberg

    Harvey Kornberg is associate professor of political science at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. He has expertise in abortion politics.

  • Phillip Levine

    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).

  • 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.

  • Rita Simon

    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).

  • 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

    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

    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.

In the South

  • Alan Abramowitz

    Alan Abramowitz is a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta and an expert on abortion politics.

  • 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.

  • Francis J. Beckwith

    Francis J. Beckwith is professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He writes and comments widely in defense of traditional Christianity. He also wrote Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.

  • 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.

  • Neal Devins

    Neal Devins is a professor of law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He is an expert on abortion law.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Nancy Maveety

    Nancy Maveety is an associate professor of political science at Tulane University in New Orleans. She specializes in women’s issues.

  • 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.

  • Christopher Tollefsen

    Associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and co-author of the 2008 book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life.

  • Kevin Wildes

    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.

  • J. Matthew Wilson

    J. Matthew Wilson is an associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. His interests include religion and politics, and voting behavior of religious voters.

In the Midwest

  • Richard Duncan

    Richard Duncan is a law professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an expert on abortion law.

  • 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).

  • Ellen S. Lazarus

    Professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and an expert in medical ethics and education and abortion politics.

  • 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.

  • 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).

In the West

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Barbara Norrander

    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).

  • Melody Rose

    Melody Rose is the Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Instruction at Portland State University. She is also the founder of The Center for Women, Politics & Policy and the founder and director of the 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.

  • 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).

  • Robert Spitzer

    The Rev. Robert Spitzer is president of the Michigan-based Spitzer Center, which provides resources for businesses and educational institutions of the Catholic faith.

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