Abortion: Brewing Up a Storm

The US Supreme Court looks likely to overturn the Federal law on abortion. Nicholas Hill and Peter Ling look at the political background to the legal argument.

With the Christian Right’s growing political influence, abortion divides Americans like few other issues. The Supreme Court is due shortly to rule on two cases, one from California, the other from Nebraska, and both claim that the actions of US Attorney General Gonzales under the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act are unconstitutional as they deny the right to abortion granted under Roe v. Wade (1973). For conservatives, legal protection of abortion epitomizes the toxic legacy of 1960s’ social policy. It is contrary to the ideal of deliberately limited government in American life as well as to religious principles. For liberals, Roe is part of the rights revolution, an extension of federal protection and of guaranteed equality, and thus reflects the same philosophy that underpinned the desegregation policy launched by the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision.

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