Roe v. Wade decided 35 years ago today

That day in 1973 was by no means the end of the abortion debate. What do the candidates have to say?

On this day 35 years ago, Justice Harry Blackmun delivered the opinion of the court in one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in modern times: Roe v. Wade. This 7-2 decision, which effectively overturned laws in 46 states pertaining to abortion rights, definitively answered the question of whether a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion fell within the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. That answer was yes, allowing women full autonomy over their pregnancies during the first trimester.

That day in 1973 was by no means the end of the abortion debate, however, which continues to echo in politicians’ platforms and rhetoric as we inch toward the November presidential elections.

I recently visited all 13 presidential candidates’ Web sites in order to understand their stances on the abortion issue. Overall, there weren’t many shocking revelations revealed in the “Issues” sections; the Republican candidates (with the exception of Rudy Giuliani) all support anti-abortion positions while the Democratic candidates support abortion rights. The means to the end did vary, however, especially among Republicans.

Mitt Romney’s stated position is rather vague, stating only that he wished to return the issue of abortion “to the American people and their elected representatives at the state and federal level.”

John McCain says that the issue of abortion should be returned to individual states to decide, and both Fred Thompson and Ron Paul hold this position as well.

Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter and Alan Keyes support a constitutional amendment protecting the right to life.

Giuliani never clearly states on his Web site that he supports abortion rights, instead focusing on his opposition to “partial-birth abortion” and his support for promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion.

As for the Democrats, all support upholding the Roe v. Wade decision in order to protect a woman’s right to choose.

Hillary Clinton pointed out the actions she has taken to remain an advocate for women, including expanding access to family planning services and opposing the 2007 Supreme Court decision banning “partial-birth abortions.”

John Edwards believes a woman should make the decision to become a mother with her family, her doctor and based upon her personal beliefs.

Mike Gravel supports a woman’s right to make a decision about abortion without government interference, and Dennis Kucinich offers this opinion as well but adds he has a plan to reduce abortions without mandating through federal government.

Barack Obama’s position on abortion is nowhere to be found on his Web site, but in his book “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama supports an abortion rights position.

Navigating through the assuredly sugar-coated positions and the groveling to their individual voting bases was difficult, but one inconsistency seemed glaringly obvious to me: Why do the Republican candidates promote “small government” philosophies in most other aspects of their platforms, yet find no problem with government intervening in possibly one of the most intimate aspects of life, the reproductive system? Something to ponder, I suppose.

I encourage all of you to visit candidates’ Web sites along with outside sources. Remember, an informed electorate is truly a cornerstone of democracy.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes comments at [email protected]