New Research Would Allow States to Regulate or Ban First Trimester Abortions (7/04)

A recently published law review article suggests that a ban on abortion, even in the first trimester, may now be allowed under the legal standards established in the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v Wade decision. The team of authors, including medical researchers, physicians, and an attorney, argue that this shift in practice, arising from new medical evidence of abortion’s risks, will not require a change in constitutional law. The Supreme Court specifically grants that states have a “compelling interest” in regulating or banning abortion to protect women’s health when the risk of death associated with abortion exceeds the risk of death associated with childbirth. When Roe was decided in 1973, it was commonly believed that mortality rates associated with abortion in the first trimester were lower than the mortality rate associated with birth. States were therefore allowed to regulate abortion to protect women’s health only after the first trimester. In the last seven years, however, four major epidemiological studies have shown that abortion is actually associated with higher rates of death compared to childbirth. The most recent study of pregnancy-related deaths was published earlier this year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. That study, linking birth, death, and abortion records for the entire country of Finland over a thirteen year period, found that women who had abortions were three times more likely to die than women who gave birth. Findings like these have completely reversed scientists’ conclusions regarding the relative risk of deaths associated with pregnancy outcome. According to the lead author of the law review article, David Reardon, Ph.D., director of the Elliot Institute, “Prior to...