The debate over abortion rights is ugly, the gap between pro-choice and pro-life too vast for meaningful dialogue, the differences too fundamental for compromise. Which means, of course, that it's a perfect issue to be exploited by politicians on both sides of the aisle. This tempts all of us to tune out the abortion rights debate, but behind all this noise and demagoguery is the very real and very important issue of balancing personal rights with potential new life.
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At this point in the United States, abortion is perfectly legal. But how did it get that way, and what is the legal rationale behind a woman's right to choose?
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The biggest problem with abortion is, of course, the fact that it involves killing an embryo or fetus. Certainly women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies--but don't fetuses also have a right to live?
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The abortion rights debate in the United States centers on Roe v. Wade
--the 35-year-old ruling that put an end to state laws banning abortion. So what would happen if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade
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The abortion rights debate is commonly misunderstood, with advocates on both sides attributing false motives to many good, deeply conscientious people. In order to understand and effectively communicate your own position on abortion rights, it is essential to understand why some people disagree with you.
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While the fundamental concern for the life of the embryo or fetus that undergirds the pro-life movement is both decent and commendable, some members of the movement rely on bad data and shifty arguments to make their point.
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The most effective way to understand the pro-choice position is to listen to the voices of its most effective advocates.
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The Supreme Court's ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart
is without question the most widely misunderstood of the Court's 2006-2007 session, as activists on both sides have exaggerated its significance in an effort to stir up more interest in the Supreme Court. The truth is that the narrowly-constructed ruling has no demonstrable effect on any woman's freedom to choose to have an abortion, and seems to be entirely consistent with Roe v. Wade
Photo: Library of Congress.
If you've ever wanted to read the interesting parts of Roe v. Wade
without slushing through the whole thing, this is all the Roe
you'll probably ever need.