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Abortion rights debate resurfaces across the US

Moderate Republicans pull abortion bill

The debate over abortion rights has resurfaced across the United States. The new Republican-controlled Congress tried to pass a bill that would ban any abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but moderates in the party succeeded last week in pulling the legislation. The group was led by GOP women who were concerned they would lose part of their female voter base.

The bill did grant an exception in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, but only if such instances were reported to the police. The Department of Justice estimates that 70 percent of rapes are never reported to authorities. In its stead the House, along party lines, passed legislation that would ban the use of taxpayer money for abortions.

And with last week marking 42 years since the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion nationwide, Pew Research found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed do not want the decision completely overturned, but about half of them consider abortions to be morally wrong.

During Al Jazeera America’s Sunday night segment “The Week Ahead,” Richelle Carey spoke to Jill Filipovic, a senior political writer a; and to Anne Hendershott, director of the “Veritas Center” at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.

Filipovic says that the attempts by pro-life groups to pass new legislation against abortion don’t lessen the need for abortions, instead they just make it more difficult and more expensive for women to get them. She says it impacts poor women and those living in rural areas the most. She says people should instead promote birth control access and sexual health education.

Hendershott disagrees saying that the pro-life movement is trying to work at the state level in an attempt to make progress incrementally.

“My view is that fundamental rights are fundamental rights,” says Filipovic. “I don’t think they should be up for a vote and things like health care access shouldn’t even be up for a political debate.” She says abortions are stigmatized.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended, and 40 percent of those are terminated by abortion. Looking at a racial breakdown of women who undergo the procedure, 36 percent are white, 30 percent are black, 25 percent are Hispanic, while the remaining 9 percent are women of other races.

Hendershott says, “For me, I don’t understand how we want to live in a country that’s one of seven that allows late-term abortion. China, Vietnam, and North Korea all allow that, and we’re in bad company in that respect.” She believes states should be allowed to make the decision to ban abortions.

Filipovic, however, says “I don’t think a woman’s right to determine the number and spacing of her children should depend on her zip code. Fundamental rights should be universal.”

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