Abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly 50 years, but it remains an emotional and controversial issue, and access to the procedure varies from state to state.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear a plea to challenge a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.
Here is a summary of the situation:
– Roe vs. Wade –
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1973, in the case of Roe v. Wade, said access to abortion is a constitutional right for a woman, eliminating state laws that restricted the procedure.
In a 1992 ruling in Family Planning v. Casey, the court guaranteed a woman’s right to have an abortion until the fetus was viable outside the womb, which typically takes between 22 and 24 weeks.
This is longer than in many other countries, where the limit is the end of the first trimester, or about 12 weeks.
At the individual level, states have reserved the right to enact laws that protect women’s health as long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on accessing a nonviable fetus.
– patchwork quilt –
Because the “unexplained burden” is subject to interpretation, many conservative states in the United States have imposed a range of abortion restrictions, forcing many facilities to close.
West Virginia and Mississippi, for example, only have one abortion clinic, while California has more than 150.
Restrictions include parental consent to perform an abortion for minors, a 24-hour waiting period, and a requirement to listen to the fetal heartbeat.
Money is another factor. About 10 states prohibit private insurance companies from paying for abortions, while 15 states allow public funds to be used to pay for the procedure for women who can’t afford it.
– Poverty and minorities –
There were more than 862,000 abortions in the United States in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports access to contraception and abortion. This figure corresponds to 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age, about the same rate as in other developed countries.
Approximately 50% of women seeking an abortion live below the poverty line, and black and Hispanic women are over-represented compared to their share of the population (29% and 25%, respectively).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 92.2 percent of abortions performed in the United States take place in the first trimester of pregnancy.
– Divided public opinion –
Nearly 60 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a number that has been relatively stable in recent years, according to a Pew Research Center survey this spring.
But there are big differences between Republicans and Democrats on this issue.
80 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but only 35% of Republicans feel that way, according to a Pew Center poll.
And the partisan divide is widening: the numbers were 72% and 39% in 2016.
Religious beliefs also play an important role: 77% of white evangelicals believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
– conservative attack –
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump polarized the religious right by promising to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court who shared his values and were inclined to overturn Roe v. valley.
Trump ended up submitting three Supreme Court nominations, incorporating a 6-3 majority into the nation’s highest court.
His arrival prompted Republican lawmakers in Texas and other conservative states to pass laws they hoped would force a review of Roe v. valley.
That strategy paid off when the court examined a Texas law on Monday and a Mississippi law on December 1 banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
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