Oppenheim: Taking Sides On Abortion

May 22, 2019

In 11 years of reporting for CNN, I did my share of stories on abortion. And when the day-after abortion pill became available, I remember thinking that because early stage pregnancies could be ended with just a pill, the dynamics of the abortion debate would change. And they did – just not in the way I expected.

My thinking then was abortion would become medically easier to access – and therefore, harder to restrict. But it turns out, partly because of a solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the opposite has happened. And many states are now lining up to limit or even eliminate abortion.

In fact, Alabama’s near ban on abortion is a law designed to bring a big case to the high court – and that's not the only case brewing in the system. Other states have passed laws preventing abortions after six weeks or when a heartbeat can be detected.

The interesting thing is – when you look at polls since the passing of Roe V. Wade in the 70's, American attitudes have been remarkably steady. Trend lines have been pretty flat – with a collective two thirds in favor of abortion rights - though a good part of that majority has approved some restrictions.

Now - Vermont’s in the fray. The legislature has passed H-57, defending the right to abortion – and Governor Phil Scott, who supports choice, will not oppose it. A separate abortion rights amendment to the state's constitution could come before voters in 2022.

Nationally, it's hard to know how all this will play out. One guess is we could end up with an exaggeration of what currently exists, where women will have a harder time accessing abortion services in some states versus others.

And while Vermont is among the minority of states seeking to protect abortion availability, more states appear to be tilting against, despite widespread public opinion.

To many, it feels menacing – while to abortion opponents, it may feel reassuring. But what now seems clear is that one of the most partisan issues of our time is entering a new chapter – and the states we live in are laying claim to whether abortion will be readily available – or not.