Editorial: Four decades later, abortion debate alive

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 08:39 PM

Forty years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that still reverberates today.

Neither side has grown quiet in arguments. Politicians are still judged by their position. For most Americans, there is some sense of judgment on those around us with respect to their position if it is known.

The case was Jane Roe, an alias for the plaintiff, versus Henry Wade, representing the state of Texas in his position as district attorney of Dallas County. It was argued on Dec. 13, 1971, and reargued on Oct. 11, 1972. The 7-2 decision, making abortion legal in many circumstances, was rendered Jan. 22, 1973.

At the time of the case, abortion was legal in only four states. North Carolina was one of 16 states with partial legality, in our cases danger to the mother’s health, rape or incest, or a likely damaged fetus. In nearly all circumstances in 30 states, including Texas, abortion was illegal.

About 55 million abortions later, polarization by the issue continues.

Inwardly, we must all ask what we believe to be the most relevant questions. These answers shape our view. Finding common ground with those on the other side, however, remains elusive while states continue to enact new laws related to abortion.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan source of data and analysis that doesn’t take advocacy positions, found 63 percent of U.S. adults opposed to overturning Roe. In 1992, it was 60 percent.

A Gallup poll finds 20 percent wanting abortion outlawed in all cases, 25 percent wanting it legal in all cases, and 52 percent aligning circumstances with legality. That’s roughly the same as the 1970s.

The debate hasn’t changed much and America’s world is different because of abortion, for better or for worse. While anti-abortion state laws continue to grow, so too does the number of women becoming obstetrician-gynecologists, helping to increase the number of abortion providers.

The controversial topic is no closer to an end now than it was 40 years ago.