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Abortion Still Debated 40 Years After Roe v. Wade

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which was handed down on Jan 22, 1973, comes as states have added more and more restrictions -- 43 state laws passed last year and 92 passed in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a group that does extensive research on abortion.

Just three weeks ago, Texas defunded all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state -- many of which do not perform abortions -- for being affiliated with an organization that advocates them.

One in three women will undergo an abortion by the time she is 45 years old, according to the Guttmacher Institute.  Almost half of them are married or living with their significant other, and 73 percent of them are affiliated with a religion.

Americans United for Life released its annual "Life List" this week, celebrating states with the most restrictions on abortion as being the most protective of human life.  The nonprofit named Louisiana as America's "most protected" state and Washington as its "least protected."

A law passed last summer in Louisiana now requires women to wait 24 hours between the time they undergo mandatory ultrasounds and the time they can have abortion procedures.  This law also requires that the fetal heartbeat be made audible unless the woman specifically requests otherwise.  Unless the woman is a victim of rape, and has reported it, she must listen to a description of the ultrasound.

Organizations like Americans United for Life are not alone in their mission "to defend human life from conception to natural death."  Twenty-nine percent of registered voters would like the Supreme Court to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on Jan 16.  But the number is shrinking.  In 1992, 34 percent of people opposed legal abortion.

Dr. John Coppes, a physician in Minnesota who preferred not to say where he works because his views are his own, said he personally can't bring himself to perform abortions because of his faith.  However, he said he would never try to impose that view on a patient or on other doctors.

Coppes said he performed abortions during his residency, but he did not feel right about them.  When he became a Christian later on, he said, he decided that life is sacred, so he could not perform abortions or make referrals for them.

"All you have to do is an ultrasound at five and six weeks and see a heart beating," he said.  "You can see there's somebody in there who has a higher value."

He said he doesn't want to speak for or antagonize anyone else, adding that just because abortion is wrong for him, doesn't mean he expects everyone to agree with him.  He said he would prefer if women didn't get abortions, but he would never stand outside a clinic and yell at them.

"That's not how you do it," he said.  "You do it through love.  You try to help her.  You try to help the child.  You don't yell and scream."

But there's a fine line between protecting the unborn and taking away women's rights, said the authors of a paper published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law this month.  The paper, "Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States," found 413 cases from 1973 through 2005 in which a fetus was legally regarded as separate from the mother at the expense of the mother's "liberty."

They found that a 26-year-old Louisiana woman spent almost a year behind bars for second-degree murder of her fetus.  She was released when doctors were able to prove that the fetus was no more than 15 weeks old, and that she miscarried because her doctor gave her a birth control injection 12 weeks prior to the miscarriage, according to a paper published Jan. 15 in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

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