Abortion mean ending a pregnancy before the fetus (unborn child) can live independently outside the mother. An induced or “therapeutic” abortion is caused deliberately in order to end the pregnancy. The practice of abortion is legal in the United States. Abortion law has many sources-constitutions, legislative statues, administrative regulations, and court decisions. The foundation of abortion law is the United States Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court (McBride, 2008). Constitutional law does not directly regulate abortion, but it sets limits on the powers of the states and the federal government to regulate abortion. The authority to regulate abortion has been reserved to the states by the Constitution because Article I, which covers the legislative branch. This does not give Congress explicit authority to regulate medical practice. Nonetheless, Congress does get involved in abortion policy through its power to spend money and regulate interstate commerce (McBride, 2008).
The Court has established this constitutional law of abortion through a series of decision, called case law, especially Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. States do not have constitutional authority to prohibit the medical practice of abortion before the fetus is viable; any laws that make abortion criminal before viability would be unconstitutional. After viability, that is, when an unborn child is able to live on its own outside the mother, state governments have the authority, but not the obligation, to prohibit abortion, except when medical judgment decides that abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the mother (McBride, 2008). This means that abortion is legal in the United States without condition before the fetus is viable. After viability, abortion is prohibited in some but not all states except when the health or life of the mother is in danger.
Roe v. Wade gave strength to a woman’s right to privacy in the context of matters relating to he own body (Pozgar, 2008). This would include how a pregnancy would end. The Supreme Court also has recognized the interest of the states in protection potential life and has attempted to spell out the extent to which the states may regulate and even prohibit abortions. In Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court held the Texas penal abortion law unconstitutional, stating this: “State criminal abortion statutes…that except from criminality only a lifesaving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved is violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Pozgar, 2008).
With Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court went on to describe what regulatory measures a state lawfully may perform during the three stages of pregnancy. In the companion decisions, Doe v. Bolton, where the Court considered a constitutional attack on the Georgia abortion statute, further restrictions were placed on state regulation of the procedure. The provisions of the Georgia statute establishing residency requirements for women seeking abortions and requiring that the procedure be performed in a hospital accredited by The Joint Commission were declared constitutionally invalid (Pozgar, 2008).
In the case law Planned Parenthood v. Casey the Supreme court affirmed Pennsylvania law restricting a woman’s right to abortion. The Court was one vote shy of overturning Roe v Wade. The Supreme Court ruling, as enunciated in Roe v. Wade reaffirmed: The constitutional right of women to...