Tribpedia: Abortion

Abortion — a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy — was first outlawed in Texas during the 19th century. In 1961, Texas passed a law to imprison anyone who helped “procure an abortion” for a pregnant woman. The law excluded abortions necessary to protect the life of the mother, but included a clause to fine any “accomplice” who provided means to obtain an abortion. It also declared the death of a mother undergoing an abortion as murder.

In 1973, when Texas’ law was challenged, and ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, abortion became legal everywhere in the United States. In the years since, Texas lawmakers have filed bill after bill to restrict abortion in Texas, with mixed success. 

The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling was rooted in the due process clause, which is found in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and seeks to protect liberties that may be unconstitutionally restricted by government.

Opinions in the case said a woman’s right to choose must be balanced with the state’s interest in protecting prenatal life and the mother’s health. Therefore, it is only legal to perform an abortion during the early stages of pregnancy, before the fetus is viable — or could potentially live outside the woman’s womb.

Another Supreme Court Case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), upheld the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling that, under due process, women should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy within the early stages. But it also opened the door for states to legally limit access to abortion, as long as the laws did not cause an “undue burden” on the pregnant woman.

During the 82nd legislative session, lawmakers are considering several GOP-backed abortion-sonogram bills they say provide women with “informed consent” before having an abortion. Gov. Rick Perry made the measure an emergency item.

Meanwhile, there are efforts afoot both nationally and in Texas to cut off federal and state funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides women's health services through government contracts, and offers abortions in some of its clinics. 


Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas.

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