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Massachusetts Medical Society




The political debate over abortion during the past 25 years has shifted among various dichotomous views of the world: life versus choice, fetus versus woman, fetus versus baby, constitutional right versus states' rights, government versus physician, physician and patient versus state legislature. Hundreds of statutes and almost two dozen Supreme Court decisions on abortion later, the core aspects of Roe v. Wade, 1 the most controversial health-related decision by the Court ever, remain substantially the same as they were in 1973. Attempts to overturn Roe in both the courtroom and the legislature have failed. Pregnant women still have a constitutional right to abortion. The fetus is still not a person under the Constitution. States still cannot make abortion a crime (either for the woman or the physician) before the fetus becomes viable. States still can outlaw abortion after the fetus becomes viable only if there is an exception that permits abortion to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman. And states still can impose restrictions on abortion before fetal viability only if those restrictions do not actually create a substantial obstacle to a pregnant woman's obtaining an abortion.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Partial-Birth Abortion, Congress, and the Constitution, Volume 339, Page 279 Copyright ©(1998) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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