Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Stephan Stohler, JD, PhD
Maintaining the accessibility to abortion has been a longstanding battle. While funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers is increasing, states are cutting funding for abortion clinics (Ludden, 2015) and they are closing at a rate of 1.5 each week (Redden, 2015). Since Roe v. Wade (1973), hundreds of cases have been brought to challenge its legality and limit it as much as possible. The inability to challenge Roe directly has led many conservative legislators to play abortion politics by proxy, regulating what goes on inside and outside clinics, and the federal courts’ play a pivotal role in reviewing these regulations. During the 1980s and 1990s, anti-abortion groups employed different forms of protest to discourage abortions, tax abortion providers’ resources, and disrupt the flow of information to women seeking abortions in what is known as “clinic-front activism” (Wilson, 2016). Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have a reputation for withholding or sharing false information to women which can engender serious mental and physical health consequences (Holtzman, 2017), but federal courts have inconsistently applied the law when addressing concerns about these practices. Controversies over abortion have recently migrated into this area of free speech, and federal court rulings have been increasingly curtailing the efforts of progressive state lawmakers to combat the attempts of anti-abortion groups and states to manipulate information for women seeking abortions. The Supreme Court has served as an important partner to the anti-abortion movement, playing a pivotal role in limiting the parameters of abortion. This is being done in three ways: (1) the Supreme Court has used its discretion over its docket to deny hearing cases, which consequently permits the decisions of the lower court that favor anti-abortion coalitions to stand; (2) federal courts make rulings that are favorable to the anti-abortion movement by selectively using established doctrine to support those positions; and (3) federal courts have created favorable doctrine to defend anti-abortion positions. The abortion debate is no longer just about a woman’s right to choose, it is now a battle about who can control the types of abortion related information that women encounter. Constitutional laws governing these issues seem to be changing significantly in response to these efforts that had initially started as small-scale clinic front activism. In the realm of abortion, federal court decisions appear increasingly to favor expanding the goals of anti-abortion groups and vastly curtailing those who support abortion. It has spurred into a much larger movement that continues to constrict the rights of those seeking an abortion to this day
Tan, Gina, "The Intersection of Free Speech and Abortion: How Federal Courts are Influencing Doctrine to Further Anti-Abortion Goals" (2020). Political Science. 33.