We supported Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Now that these decisions have been overturned, we support national and/or state legislation establishing the same rights that were embodied in these decisions.
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The Right to Choose
Recognizing that abortion is a truly polarizing issue, we hope to reach a compromise position, and to move this issue off of the national agenda.
The right of adult women to choose to have an abortion in the first and most of the second trimesters was the law of the land based on the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent clarification in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. We supported those decisions, as settled law, despite disagreeing with the constitutional theory on which they were based. We now support establishing those same rights through national or state legislation.
Public Funding of Abortions
We do not, however, believe that this right entails an obligation for federal, state, or local governments to subsidize abortion procedures and we oppose efforts to use tax dollars at all levels to subsidize abortions. We support including contraception in the definition of minimally acceptable health care coverage for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to reduce the frequency of abortions. We would, in general, support candidates who support legislation similar to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, oppose public funding of abortions, and support public subsidies for contraception through the ACA.
The Rights of Minors
We also do not believe that the constitutional right to an abortion extends to minors without their parents’ consent. These issues were addressed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and we support the limitations on the rights of minors to an abortion spelled out in that decision. Planned Parenthood v. Casey supported the right of the state of Pennsylvania to require minors to obtain parental consent for an abortion. The Pennsylvania law in question provided a workaround for the court to waive this requirement under certain circumstances.
Legislative Resolution to the Abortion Issue
There does appear to be a national consensus that abortion ought to be legal well into a pregnancy. There also appears to be consensus that abortions should be restricted toward the end of the pregnancy, provided that the pregnancy does not threaten the health of the woman or in the case of catastrophic birth defects.
We, therefore, support national legislation that guarantees an unrestricted right to abortion during the first and second trimesters provided that it also bans third trimester abortions (27 weeks and beyond), subject to exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman and catastrophic birth defects, like anencephaly. The intent is that this legislation would supersede all state legislation on the issue.
Federal legislation banning or permitting abortion may not be constitutional under any of the enumerated powers granted to the federal government. Despite this, both pro-life and pro-choice legislators have proposed resolving the issue at the federal level.
It appears that it would be difficult to do so using Article 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment (the ability of Congress to enact legislation to enforce equal protection), because the Dobbs decision asserts that there is no Fourteenth Amendment right to abortion.
It may be possible to enact legislation that would pass constitutional muster under the commerce clause or using the federal government’s powers to spend. For example, Congress might pass a law prohibiting states from interfering with interstate commerce in the form of tele-health visits with doctors in other states and patients receiving medication by interstate mail. It might also pass a law prohibiting states from restricting interstate travel to obtain an abortion prior to the third trimester or prohibit interstate travel to obtain one during the third trimester, other than for the exceptions noted above. None of these ideas are as clean as the policy statement mentioned above, but the intent would be to accomplish the same objective subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.
Our position on state legislation, in the absence of federal legislation, would be similar. We would support legislation that guarantees an unrestricted right to abortion during the first and second trimesters provided that it also bans third trimester abortions (27 weeks and beyond), subject to exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman and catastrophic birth defects, like anencephaly.
Support for Programs Designed to Discourage Abortions
Although we supported Roe v. Wade, which prohibited using the coercive power of the state to ban abortions during the first two trimesters, we recognize the legitimate ethical concerns of those who oppose abortion. Because of this, we believe that governments at all levels should take actions to reduce the incidence of abortion, such as efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy, to subsidize prenatal medical care and contraception, and to support and facilitate adoption.
Legal Rights for the Fetus
We oppose legislation designed to grant legal rights to the fetus. These laws are problematic from any number of points of view, including their effects on contraception and fertility treatments.