ABORTING ABORTION? Looking at Roe v Wade

ABORTING ABORTION? Looking at Roe v Wade

What does the overturning of Roe v Wade mean practically with regard to protection for babies in the US, globally and in SA?

Legal chaos and uncertainty is possibly the best description I can think of off the top of my head.  The uncertainty and legal challenges that will follow will impact significantly on peoples lives.

By Cheryllyn Dudley (former MP, author and DiaLOGOS analyst)

Following this thought I asked Ryan Smit of Cause for Justice, this same question. Ryan whose take on issues like this I have learned to value over years of working together, said: “Practically, the fact that there is no right to abortion in the US Constitution, would mean that on US soil individual states would need to make legislative provision for abortion services in a manner that would shield medical practitioners from liability.

Roe v Wade provided a shield for medical malpractice to doctors who were willing to terminate pregnancies without adequate health reasons. Abortion on demand, in almost all cases, has no health rationale. Without a health rationale and a legal right to abortion (e.g. as a means of contraception/family planning after conception), it would probably have to be fully privately funded and is likely to move doctors’ professional indemnity insurance into a different category, thereby attracting higher premiums…. Whether this will translate into a higher regard for the lives of babies in the womb, and reconnecting the sex act with becoming parents in the cultural conscience, remains to be seen. The de-coupling of the sex act from parenting is a large part of what underlies the debate about the legality of abortion.”

Abortion supporters and opponents will now be more focused on the constitutional provisions of 50 different states as opposed to one federal constitutional perspective.  Neither the U.S. Constitution, nor the state’s constitutions explicitly include a right to abortion (or other reproductive rights, like the use of birth control). But many describe rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Others demand equal protection under the law.



In the 2000s, anti-abortion activists had already begun to focus on amendments to the constitutions of individual states to explicitly eliminate the right to abortion.  State constitutions are generally much easier to change than the federal Constitution. Once a state legislature has proposed an amendment, most states require only a simple majority of voters to approve it. By contrast, the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, along with ratification by 38 states.

In 2014, Tennessee became the first state in the USA to enact an amendment that expressly declared no right to abortion in the state’s constitution. Alabama, West Virginia and Louisiana have since followed suit.  In August Kansas will consider such an amendment and Kentucky will vote on another in November.


Now, abortion rights advocates are turning to the amendment solution, too. Four states and the District of Columbia have already codified the right to abortion throughout pregnancy,  including New Jersey and Colorado and

Vermont, California and Michigan are likely to follow suit.

As Ryan Smit points out, with some states prohibiting abortion, and others making provision for it, this is likely to lead to a kind of “abortion tourism” – i.e. people travelling over state lines or even permanently moving to another state to be able to have an abortion.

Regardless of how people will vote, they are likely to pay more attention to and understand the importance of individual state constitutions going forward.

 As a Member of Parliament in South Africa for 20 years, I found many opportunities over the years to challenge legislation on abortion – including through three of the five legislative proposals I initiated during that time. The first – a Constitutional Amendment – provided for the Right to Life of the un-born child. The second and the fourth were amendments to the CTOP Act.

While I personally don’t believe a baby’s life should be taken at any stage in its development for any reason other than if the mother’s life depends on it, I have learned over the years that life is not simply about being for or against things. It is more about being what we need to be in the many circumstances in life that occur – often due to our own failings and brokenness but just as often that of others or the ‘fallen’ world in general.

Having had success with my proposal re parental leave for dads and adoptive parents I new my next legislative proposal relating to abortion law would be significantly different. I really sensed God’s specific leading in the crafting of it. It did not seek to challenge the constitution – which does not protect the life of an unborn child – but to improve existing provisions in legislation in line with the constitution. In this process, I had a heightened awareness that moms were as much on God’s heart as their babies were.

The Bill aimed to ensure greater protection of a woman’s right to relevant information to make an informed choice and to ensure mandatory counselling and adequate budgets for this. It aimed to address discrimination against babies conceived by women in low-income families, providing that a social worker and a medical practitioner take the necessary decision together regarding ‘social and economic circumstances’ for termination after 13 weeks to ensure ‘moms’ did not feel they had no options. Lastly, it aimed to remove ‘a risk of injury to the foetus’ as a valid reason to terminate an otherwise viable baby after 20 weeks as every birth poses a risk of injury and provision exists for termination after the 20th week, if linked to severe malformation of the foetus.

The concern of some Christians, that this was a compromise, was understandable, however we live in a diverse society and even when a majority of people in SA decide to stand for ‘the right of an unborn child to life’ and vote in line with their convictions – there will still be a need for consideration of both majority and minority views. Being Pro-Life, rather than Anti-Abortion this Bill was an intervention, an attempt to save more lives by whatever means reasonably possible and In that sense, there was no compromise – only the prospect of saving lives.

In drafting the bill as I did, the hope was that a greater appreciation and respect for life will take root in our cultural perspective. There was also the possibility that through accessing relevant information and relevant help increasing numbers of women would not feel they have no other choice but to take the life of their child.

We could be praying:

  • for Christian’s to show compassion for Abortion providers, pro Abortion activists and those who have succumbed to abortion services;

  • for Gods will to be done in each and every situation;

  • for wisdom and God’s guidance as communities, courts and legislators tackle these complex issues;

  • that laws will provide space and help for people to do the ‘right thing’ while providing maximum protection for those who find themselves in desperate situations;

  • for wisdom in providing for unintended consequences like, investigations into miscarriages etc which happen often and are devastating enough as it is;

  • for doctors and clinics to be able to identify and help those who are vulnerable to turning to unsafe and illegal abortions;

  • for pro-life organisations to carefully monitor the implementation of new laws and identify unintended consequences; and

  • for these organisations to lobby for amendments where necessary and for action to support those negatively affected.



Author: Cheryllyn Dudley

A autobiography of a veteran politician and a girl, who takes you on a journey from small town life in a southern African colonial city to serving as a Member of the South African Parliament for 20 years, reinventing herself along the way to be fit for purpose.
This is a conversation about how life and politics relate to ones beliefs and vice-versa but it is also a call to people everywhere to choose hope and reject fear.

Follow the link in the picture or click on THROUGH MY EYES to order.

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