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Religious Tolerance logo

Abortion access


U.S., Canada, & the rest of the world:
Laws restricting/allowing abortion access, etc.

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abprtopm sogm Comparison of the two main religiously motivated conflicts:

As of early 2014, two battles appear to be the most actively fought religiously motivated conflicts in the U.S. Both involve personal access:

  • Marriage: This conflict involves access by loving, committed same-sex couples to marriage, and to the federal and state benefits and protections associated with marriage. They seek this for the sake of both themselves and their children (if any). A same-sex couple can legally marry in one state, and -- while taking a short trip -- be considered married in a second state, as "civil unionized" in a third state, and as legal strangers -- mere roomates -- in a fourth.

    This battle is now mainly being fought state-by-state, via lawsuits in federal courts. Over 60 active lawsuits are currently active in federal District Courts around the U.S. In the past, access to marriage was mainly achieved via bills in state legislatures, citizen initiatives, and state constitutional amendments.

    Same-sex marriage (SSMs) have been legalized in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. Since 2013-DEC, U.S. District Courts In five additional states, have legalized SSM, but the judges' decisions are stayed pending appeals to a higher court. In two additonal states, courts have required states to recognize SSMs solemnized in other states but these decisions have also been stayed. Most American adults expect this conflict to be resolved perhaps within five or ten years when same-sex marriage will be legalized in every state. More details. Those opposed to SSM consider that one married same-sex couple is one too many.

  • Abortion: This conflict is over abortion access. The basic question is under what conditions, if any, should a state or federal government veto a woman's personal decision to have an abortion. This conflict is very different from the conflict over marriage. Most adults are pro-life in that they believe that they would not personally seek an abortion in the event of an unexpected pregnancy. But most adults are pro-choice in that they would not wish to see governments veto all women's decisions to seek an abortion.

The morality of abortion is tightly linked to the concept of when personhood begins. Most people believe that a human ovum and a spermatozoon are living entities with human DNA. Thus one might consider them to be forms of human life. Hair, skin scrapings, and a cancerous growth are also forms of human life, and have little or a negative value. However, a newborn is both a form of human life and a human person. Everyone, with perhaps the exception of one sociologist at an north-eastern university, considers newborns to have immense worth -- the most valuable form of known life in the universe.

Unfortunately, there is no consensus about when the transition from human life to human personhood occurs:

  • Some believe that the transition happens at conception, even though the pre-embryo is only a single celled animal at the time. They support their belief by the fact that a unique DNA is formed at that time.

  • Some believe that it happens when the embryo's heart beat can be detected -- typically at 9 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Some believe that it happens when the fetus becomes sentient; i.e. it become conscious. This typically happens at about 24 weeks gestation.

  • Some believe that it happens when the fetus is born, the umbilical cord is severed, and the newborn is breathing on its own.

  • Others have a different criteria for the "start of personhood."

Battles over abortion are typically caused when a woman -- after consultation with friends, family, her physician, perhaps her spiritual advisor, etc. decides that to have an abortion is the least worse option for her, but the government has vetoed her decision by making an abortion unavailable to her.

There is one positive aspect to the abortion conflict. Both pro-life advocates and pro-choice advocates agree that they would like to see the number of abortions and the abortion rate reduced. There are two main ways to do this:

  • By making abortions unavailable. Pro-life groups have concentrated essentially all of their effort in this area. Pro-choice groups have concentrated essentially all of their effort to keeping abortions available, and safe.

  • By noting that the vast majority of abortions are not caused by medical necessity; they are caused by an unwanted, unplanned for and unexpected pregnancy. In excess of 40% of such pregnancies end in intentional abortions. A study in Toledo has shown that if women are supplied with free contraceptives, their abortion rate is drastically reduced. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate which would allow almost all employed women to obtain free contraceptives through her health insurance would go a long way to reducing the abortion rate to a small percentage of its current rate. Unfortunately, many employers are resisting this mandate. An even greater reduction in abortion rate could be achieved by making contraception available to all unemployed women of childbearing age.

The logical groups to press for such a change are the pro-life and pro-choice organizations. Unfortunately, that would require cooperation and dialogue, and very little of either is happening.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Abortion access in North America:
bullet Laws and court cases concerning abortion access:

In the U.S

bullet In Canada
bullet Dr. Morgentaler receives medal

bullet Roe v. Wade; Its basis; court philosophies; political aspects

bullet 2004 to 2012: Party platforms written by the U.S. National Democratic and Republican parties

bullet 2016: Controversy over Senator Kaine (D-VA), presumptive VP candidate, and his views on abortion

bullet The future battle over abortion access in the U.S.; the impact if Roe v. Wade is overturned; state bills to criminalize abortion; division in the pro-life movement

U.S. State bills & constitutional amendments to criminalize or restrict abortions in:

bullet Canadian bills attempting to restrict abortion Part 1  Part 2

bullet The "FACE" law

bullet Use of the RICO laws against pro-life groups

bullet Parental notification and consent laws


Interstate travel to abortion clinics


The "Born-alive Infants Protection Act"


The "Unborn Victims of Violence Act"


Abortion training in Ob-Gyn residency programs

bullet Proposed anti-abortion laws in Georgia




bullet "Choose Life" specialty license plates
bullet Laws affecting abortion access elsewhere in the world:

bullet The "Mexico City" policy restricting aid to family planning agencies

bullet Abortion access in Mexico City, Mexico

bullet Abortion access in Portugal

bullet Abortion access in Uruguay

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Home > "Hot" religious topics and conflicts > Abortion > here

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Copyright © 1996 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1996-DEC-20
Last updated 2016-JUL-27
Author: B.A. Robinson
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