Squabbling over abortion rights simplifies a complex issue

In a state as staunchly conservative as Arizona, the topic of abortion can quickly turn friends into enemies and family members into foes.

On Monday, Supreme Court justices declined to hear an Arizona case that would resurrect a statewide ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco originally overruled the law as unconstitutional, saying it violated firm legal precedents.

These precedents stretch back to 1973 to include Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case that established the viability of a fetus at 24 weeks.

However, if consistency is key when it comes to the legal ramifications pertaining to abortion, it seems odd that a similar law in Texas has so far gone unchallenged. The inconsistencies across state lines will perpetuate the idea that a woman’s right to her own body is not consistently protected.

I’m hesitant to approach the topic of abortion because it is both a highly emotional issue and difficult for me to simplify into categories of “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” However, as a resident of Arizona and as a woman, it’s important to weigh in.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which seeks to advance sexual and reproductive health through research, Arizona is one of 12 states that have attempted to ban abortions at 20 weeks, based on the theory of fetal pain.

Additionally, NPR’s Julie Rovner reports that Arizona “was banning most abortions at what most medical professionals consider 18 weeks of gestation, weeks before what the Supreme Court and some medical professionals consider a fetus viable.”

Despite failures by the state to challenge existing precedents regarding first and second trimester abortions, Arizona has still found ways to hamper and impede the process of Arizona women attempting to receive an abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Arizona ban reminds us once again that prior to 20 weeks, the fate of the fetus belongs to the woman.

The Guttmacher Institute’s “State Facts About Abortion” page for Arizona revealed that the state still has several restrictions regarding abortion in place as of Jan. 1, 2014.

For example, women must receive counseling that provides information designed to discourage them from having an abortion, as well as undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.

What purpose do these restrictions serve if not to manipulate women to adhere to and buckle under pressure from the state regarding their own bodies, despite the legal backings that have shown time and time again that the state is not allowed to interfere with the process?

Pro-life advocates have long maintained that these restrictions are merely ensuring the absolute safety of the parties involved, both mother and fetus.

However, with labels like “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” it is too easy to dismiss the situational nature of pregnancy from woman to woman and instead throw all abortion cases under one umbrella.

It is too easy to get caught up in the contentious rhetoric surrounding abortion. Too often the issue is simplified to a dispute between two sides that we stubbornly march on while forgetting to look at the historical and legal contexts preceding the issue.

Moving forward, it would behoove us to remember that abortion is as complex and nuanced an issue as pregnancy is itself. To continue scrambling and squabbling for legislative power over the issue will prove ultimately futile for those who refuse to heed history.

Reach the columnist at llonghi@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @lolonghi