Think You Know Roe v. Wade? Here’s What People Get Wrong.

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In 2017, Pew Research did a couple of polls on abortion, and their findings didn’t exactly mesh. While the first said only 28% of Americans think Roe v. Wade should be “completely overturned,” the second reported that 37% believed abortion should be “illegal in all or most cases.”

These findings contrasted with two Ohio polls done in 2012 and 2013. Conducted by the Columbus Dispatch and Quinnipiac University, they showed between 46% and 47% supported banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat becomes detectable–something that happens less than a month following conception. Meanwhile, a 2017 Marist poll reported 59% of Americans would ban abortion at 20 weeks–the point when research indicates a child suffers pain.   

So what explains this conflict? Methodology could be part of it. Another possibility?

People don’t know what they’re talking about.   

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You can see this from the first Pew poll: it reported 69% felt the “right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, should not be completely overturned.” What the respondents and pollsters didn’t seem to realize is that the Supreme Court already abandoned its trimester analysis…in 1992.

But the confusion doesn’t end there; myths about abortion and the Supreme Court are widespread. Here are three of of the most common.

Myth#1: The Supreme Court limited when abortions can take place

If you ask at what point during a pregnancy the Supreme Court prohibited abortion, responses will vary. Some say three months, others viability. The correct answer?

It didn’t.

Yes, the Supreme Court said in Roe that states could outlaw abortion in the third trimester, and in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that point was pushed back to viability. Children are considered viable at 24 weeks, although some have survived even earlier.

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However, while states can restrict abortion post-viability, not all of them do; the federal government doesn’t either. Here’s what those abortions involve:

Myth #2: Late-term abortions are only done to protect a mother’s life

So even if the Supreme Court does allow abortions at any point, late-term ones are only done to save a mother’s life, right? Nope. Dr. Anthony Levatino is an obstetrician-gynecologist who performed over 1200 abortions, and he explains how that’s a myth:

The Guttmacher Institute’s journal, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, published a study on why abortions are done after 20 weeks. It found that “[o]verall, 43% of women reported that not realizing they were pregnant delayed them in seeking abortion care,” and that “[h]aving recognized their pregnancy, 37% of women reported that the process of deciding whether to have an abortion slowed them down.” And as the footage below proves, staff at Southwestern Women’s Options in New Mexico will arrange third trimester induction abortions for those reasons:

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Of course, late-term abortions can also happen for other reasons: Gary Cross got Planned Parenthood to arrange one on his 13 year-old stepdaughter to hide the fact he raped her.

Myth #3: The Supreme Court said there’s no right to life.

If someone says there’s no constitutional right to life, there’s a good chance they’ve never actually read the Constitution.

Under the 14th Amendment, states can’t “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” But didn’t the majority opinion in Roe hold that a woman’s right to “bodily autonomy” trump her child’s right to life? That would be news to the guy who wrote it. Here’s what Justice Harry Blackmun had to say:

The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a “person” within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument.

As you can see, even the abortion movement’s champion had to acknowledge that if the fetus is a person, then her or his life is constitutionally protected. He got around this by concluding that children in the womb aren’t people–heartbeats, fingerprints, and identifiable sex notwithstanding. Seeing someone as human but less than a person might seem strange, but this wasn’t the first time Supreme Court Justices had done so.

It saw slaves the same way.

Polls on abortion often show broad support for the status quo. The good news? That support drops once people find out what the status quo really is. Because whether we’re talking about late-term abortion or what’s in the Constitution, there’s no shortage of myths.

It’s time to dismantle them.

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