abortion

Seven years ago, Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana went to jail in El Salvador. She was initially charged with abortion but prosecutors elevated the charge to aggravated homicide, arguing that the fetus was viable. Vasquez always contended that she did not have an abortion but had lost her unborn son due to medical complications late in the pregnancy.

House Republicans decided Wednesday night to shelve a bill that would have banned abortion at 20 weeks post-conception. But 10 states already ban abortions at 20 weeks and two others are defending such laws in court.

Activists are pushing for bans in at least three more states; a panel in the South Carolina Legislature passed one Thursday.

But under the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, a woman has the right to an abortion for several weeks after that, until the point when the fetus is considered viable.

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of a hotly contested abortion law in Texas. The measure mandates stricter building codes for clinics that perform the procedure, and Fifth Circuit judges in New Orleans will decide whether that poses an undue burden.

The Texas law — HB2 — requires clinics that perform abortions to operate like ambulatory surgical centers. Think wider hallways and hospital-style equipment — upgrades that could cost millions.

The new year is expected to bring yet another round of state laws to restrict abortion — and 2015 could also be the year a challenge to at least one of these laws could reach the Supreme Court.

The ongoing spike in abortion laws started after 2010, when Republicans won big in the midterms. Since then, state lawmakers have passed more than 200 abortion regulations — more than in the entire decade before. And with more statehouse gains in the fall elections, abortion opponents expect another good year.

The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked enforcement of an Arizona law aimed at limiting use of the increasingly popular abortion pill. In 2012 nearly half of the abortions in the state were via the pill, known as RU-486.

The pill was approved by the FDA in 2000 for the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Since then, scientists have developed safer and smaller doses that allow the drug to be used through the ninth week.

The Supreme Court has placed a hold on a 2013 Texas law that was threatening to close most of the state's clinics that perform abortions.

NPR's Nina Totenberg reports that the law was already responsible for the closing of nearly 40 clinics across Texas. Nina filed this report for our Newscast unit:

One day in the summer of 2013, 25-year-old Seteng Horo found herself on a bus to the nearest public hospital, about four hours away from her remote village in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. It's not a trip she can afford to take often — buses are infrequent, the journey is long and the cost of about a dollar roundtrip is not insignificant. But she had no choice. She was running a temperature and had been bleeding for days. The reason: an unsafe abortion performed by a village midwife.

What Drives Abortion: The Law Or Income?

Sep 28, 2014

About 50,000 women worldwide die because of unsafe abortions. Five million more are admitted to hospitals with complications after the procedure.

Activists and researchers on both sides of the abortion debate agree that these "back-alley" operations are dangerous for women. It's figuring out the best way to stop them that has been contentious.

Spain's streets have been filled with dueling demonstrations in recent months: Women's groups arguing for abortion rights. Church groups lobbying for more restrictions on the procedure.

The debate was invigorated by ruling conservatives' plan to create one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe — a near-total ban, except in cases of rape or danger to the mother's health.

In the central market in San Salvador, you can buy just about anything you want: tomatoes by the wheelbarrow full. Fresh goat's milk straight from the goat. Underwear. Plumbing supplies. Fruit. Hollywood's latest blockbusters burned straight onto a DVD.

And in the back of the market, in a small stall lined with jars of dried herbs, roots and mushrooms, you can buy an abortion.

Christina Quintanilla's nightmare with El Salvador's abortion law began on Oct. 26, 2004.

Quintanilla was 17 at the time, and seven months pregnant with her second child. She was living in her mother's apartment, and that night, she couldn't get comfortable. Her belly was bulging, her back was aching, and her stomach was upset.

Dr. Willie Parker is one of two doctors who performs abortions at the only women’s health clinic in Mississippi where abortions are performed.

Parker is a devout Christian who feels he is doing the right thing to help women in need. He’s the subject of a profile in Esquire magazine called “The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker.”

Even if you're trying, it's tough to keep score of what's happening with various lawsuits challenging some state abortion laws.

States led by anti-abortion governors and legislatures have been passing a broad array of measures over the past few years aimed at making the procedure more difficult for women to obtain.

About two dozen states enacted 70 such measures in 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Those laws range from imposing waiting periods to requiring ultrasounds to limiting the use of the "abortion pill" mifepristone, or RU486.

In a little over a year, the number of clinics that provide abortions in Texas fell to 20 from 41, and watchdogs say that as few as six may be left by September.

Many clinics closed because of a requirement that doctors at those clinics obtain hospital admitting privileges within a certain radius of the clinic, and many doctors couldn't comply. The requirement took effect last November. This week marks the first anniversary of the state law that started it all.

Abortion services providers say the Supreme Court’s ruling on 35-foot “buffer zones” around Massachusetts clinics won’t have much effect in the Northwest.

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