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July 12th, 2006

Abortion Girls!

So I was shelving books for my most peaceful job as a student librarian and stopped at a thin, yellow book bleakly titled: Abortion: ... North Carolina.  I opened it up to a table comparing every state's statues on abortion, followed by a summary of the situation for North Carolinian women.  Perhaps everyone knows all this, but I found the book informative.

Although everyone wails about how Roe v. Wade is significant because the Justices interpreted a federal right to property and life for women seeking abortions, as exclusively protected during the 1st trimester, this thin book was the first to clearly identify a state's jurisdiction over aborting 2nd and 3rd trimesters.  The book is dated but the only federal reinterpretation of abortion since 1976 was Justice O'Connor's opinion that state's cannot place an "undue burden" upon women seeking abortion, inferentially abolishing, as far as I understand, the original trimester requirements.  Regardless, the little book explains how the federal government highly discourages aberrant states through abortion funding, much like the federal government discourages discrimination in public schools through Title IX funding.   Money is motivation.

As an example of a state's statues, here's North Carolina:
  • NC statutes allow 3rd trimester abortions to preserve the woman's life or health, instead of the more conservative state statutes limiting late abortions only to the woman's life.
  • A woman is free to abort without consent because there are no such requirements in NC, to either parents of minors or spouses, nor a waiting period.
  • All abortions in North Carolina are regulated by the state's Dept. of Health and Human Services, and this department delegates the State Medical Care Commission to issue licenses to hospital's and clinics that pass medical, abortion procedure standards.  (PBS aired an excellent documentary, The Last Abortion Clinic, whose interviewees claimed that some state commissions burden clinics with excessive standards to inflate the cost of abortions, essentially discouraging physicians from performing the procedure.)
  • Hospitals and clinics are not mandated to maintain separate abortion records to be collected by the state's health agency, but the anonymity of the patient is not protected.
  • Medical professionals may conscientiously refuse treatment without employment repremands.
  • NC statutes do not require physicians to attempt to preserve the life of a viable fetus, or provide live-born fetuses with full medical care.
Again, my source was published in 1979 so I do not know how many of these statutes were since changed by North Carolinian legislatures; nevertheless, the thin book demonstrates the role our states play in regulating abortions, a point I find often overlooked by a preponderant debate on the federal level.   Some states are more conservative than NC, some more liberal; every state reflecting, a point I find interesting, the interests of its constituents.  Still, as one of those constituents, I find the last point on the list repugnant: evidently my fellow Carolinians do not find it necessary to compel physicians to sustain viable fetuses (or at least to honor a doctor's oath to provide care).  California requires physicians to fulfill their oath, as does New York.  I guess a letter to Representative Foxx is in order...

Anyways, check a similar reference for your state, because here I was only interested in North Carolina's statutes.   If you know of a revised or more recent, comparison of the state's regulation of abortion, please pass it along. :)