Abortion
June 15, 2013
Will it remain legal in the United States?

Forty years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the issue continues to generate heated debate and high emotion. With Democrats who support abortion rights controlling the White House and Senate, much of the anti-abortion battle has moved to the states, where legislators have passed increasingly restrictive measures in an effort to limit use of the procedure and test the boundaries of Roe v. Wade. As abortion rights groups struggled to keep the procedure legal, controversies erupted over anti-abortion comments made by three Republican congressional candidates' efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and end government-mandated health insurance coverage for birth control. Recently, the debate has shifted to whether emergency contraception should be made available to young girls without a prescription.

Anti-abortion activists attend the March for Life on Jan. 25,
            2013, in Washington, D.C., held each year to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the
            landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal in the United States. (Getty Images/Brendan Hoffman)   Anti-abortion activists attend the March for Life on Jan. 25, 2013, in Washington, D.C., held each year to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal in the United States. (Getty Images/Brendan Hoffman)

As the nation marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion in the United States, efforts to get the court to revisit the issue have been brewing in state legislatures. 1 In the past two years lawmakers have enacted more than 130 laws restricting abortion rights, chipping away at protections ensured by Roe v. Wade. 2 Legislators say they are trying to see just how far they can go in restricting abortion without having the law declared unconstitutional, given that polls show nearly 60 percent of Americans want some limits on abortion even as 70 percent want to keep it legal.

A perennial election-year flashpoint, abortion tripped up three GOP candidates in 2012. Polls show the three lost their congressional races due at least in part to controversial remarks about abortion and rape. Another election-year controversy involved efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. And on the reproductive-rights front, controversy erupted over a mandate in the sweeping health-care reform law championed by President Obama that all health plans cover contraception and over whether so-called morning-after pills should be made available to females of any age without a prescription.

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