Abortion Laws

Prominent figures on the Christian right in the US, ranging from religious figures, well-known authors and elected politicians have warned that the fight over abortion rights could lead to a new civil war.

Though such dire predictions are not necessarily new on the extreme right wing in the US, the passing of a wave of hardline anti-abortion laws in numerous states this year appears to have amplified conspiratorial predictions proclaiming abortion to be the major impetus in a future national conflict.

Violence and disruption against abortion clinics in the US increased to its highest levels since the 1990s last year, a report by the National Abortion Federation has found. The increase in violence was attributed, at least in part, to president Donald Trump and his administration’s rhetoric. The report noted a significant increase in obstruction, vandalism, and trespassing, with 1,135 incidents of trespassing recorded in 2018 – the most since the NAF began tracking the crime in 1999. There were also 3,038 instances of obstruction, a 78 per cent increase compared to the previous year, and nearly 100,000 instances of picketing.

As the issues of the legality and morality of abortion consume the national debate in the US, Pope Francis has indicated his support for the pro-life camp. The pontiff, who is known for his outspoken aversion to the practice, tore into those supportive of abortion as an inalienable human right. Speaking at an anti-abortion conference in the Vatican on Saturday, he argued that there is no excuse for taking away a human life – even in cases where the fetus has a debilitating medical condition and the newborn might die at birth or shortly thereafter. While the Vatican’s rhetoric might sound extreme to pro-choice activists who fight against blanket bans on abortions, Francis has reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s centuries-old opposition to the practice, which it considers a mortal sin.

The strictest abortion bill in the nation was signed into law by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey last week. It makes the procedure a class-A felony, outlawing all abortions, including in cases of incest and rape, but makes an exception if the mother’s life is at risk. Doctors who violate the ban face 10 to 99 years in prison. The bill sparked an outcry and mass protests led by pro-choice activists, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood on Friday filed a lawsuit to challenge it.

Earlier this month, Ohio, Georgia, and Mississippi passed ‘fetal heartbeat’ laws, which effectively prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, around the time a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. Only the Georgia law included exemptions for rape and incest. The bills, while applauded by pro-life activists, have spawned numerous legal challenges and are likely to be contested.