Is Change in Abortion Legislation on the Rise?

The New York Times published an article last week about possible new legislation regarding abortion standards in the United States.

The House of Representatives voted 242-184 to ban most abortions after 20 weeks. The current Supreme Court ruling on fetal viability is currently 22-24 weeks after fertilization. While it is likely that this particular bill will be shot down in the Senate, it is nevertheless an important step in the conversation about abortion.

Two quotes from the article most accurately depict the ongoing struggle between those in favor of and against abortion:


  • “‘No matter how it is shouted down, or what distortions, deceptive what-ifs, distractions, diversions, gotchas, twisting of words, changing the subject or blatant falsehoods the abortion industry hurls at this bill and its supporters,’ said Representative Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican who introduced the measure, ‘this bill is a deeply sincere effort, beginning at their sixth month of pregnancy, to protect both mothers and their pain-capable unborn babies from the atrocity of late-term abortion on demand.'”


  • “‘Every woman has a constitutional right to make health care choices in the manner she sees fit, and everyone in America should see this cynical attempt to seize control from women for what it is,’ Ms. DeGette and Ms. Slaughter said in a statement on Tuesday.”


Notice that each quote of value-laden terminology—the first focuses on the fetus’s ability to feel pain, even going so far as to call the fetus a baby. The second quote, on the other hand, focuses on women’s rights and the notion of patriarchal control and manipulation. While there is still this much difficulty in establishing language that doesn’t automatically estrange one side or the other, it is unlikely that any real change in legislation is possible.

I do, however, find it encouraging that these difficulties have not rendered the issue moot and caused it fade from view. When an issue seems as insurmountable as this one, the easy thing would be to do one’s best to ignore it, but the only way for progress to become feasible is to continue in open discourse.

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Carol Eblen
Carol Eblen

I agree with you comments, Sarah! I believe the people of my generation, very old, who now identify themselves as “pro choice” (like me) are not at all opposed to this six months restriction that seems reasonable, moral, and compassionate to me. It is a disgrace that we, as a country, are aborting millions of fetuses ever year but the aborting of six month old babies is EVIL unless there is a moral and legal basis for doing so in specific, extreme circumstances. I am not pro-choice because I believe abortion is moral and a good solution but only because… Read more »

Jon Holmlund
Jon Holmlund

I agree that throwing brickbats from behind political barriers is not helpful. However, I don’t think that purging the discussion of “value-laden” language is possible or even desirable. Deep moral principles are at stake, and cases can be made clearly and civilly. I think of Christopher Kaczor’s book The Ethics of Abortion, for example. And I would not object to “going even so far as to call the fetus an unborn baby.” Would “unborn human” be less objectionable? I thought that distinguishing the fetus in utero, or the embryo in vitro, from a born human was fundamental to attempts to… Read more »