Jonathan V. Last
Sept. 21, 2013
It’s easy to become inured to the state of abortion in the United States, but every so often someone sends a shock to the system.
In a new book about the history of Roe, Abuse of Discretion, lawyer Clarke Forsythe combs through the historical record of the Supreme Court’s decision, from case files to personal papers, to show exactly how pell-mell the verdict was. And in the course of all this he highlights how out-of-the-norm America’s abortion regime is.
The United States is an outlier when it comes to the scope of the abortion “right.” The United States is one of approximately ten nations (of 195) that allow abortion after fourteen weeks of gestation. The others are: Canada, China, Great Britain, North Korea, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Western Australia, and Vietnam. When it comes to allowing abortion for any reason after viability, however, the United States is joined only by Canada, North Korea, and China. The United States got into this situation because after the second round of arguments in Roe and Doe, the Justices abruptly decided to expand the abortion right they were creating to fetal viability—and then beyond. For forty years, this abrupt decision has had profound implications for late-term abortions, live-birth abortions, and women’s health.
To be sure, many nations disapprove of abortion de jure, yet allow it de facto. But this is a distinction with a difference because it shows that the culture still has moral bearings, even if it frequently sets them aside in the name of expediency.