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Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response

CRS Report – Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response, Updated February 8, 2021: “In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. In a companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, the Court found that a state may not unduly burden the exercise of that fundamental right with regulations that prohibit or substantially limit access to the procedure. Rather than settle the issue, the Court’s rulings since Roe and Doe have continued to generate debate and have precipitated a variety of governmental actions at the national, state, and local levels designed either to nullify the rulings or limit their effect. These governmental regulations have, in turn, spawned further litigation in which resulting judicial refinements in the law have been no more successful in dampening the controversy. Following Roe, the right identified in that case was affected by decisions such as Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, which gave greater leeway to the states to restrict abortion, and Rust v. Sullivan, which narrowed the scope of permissible abortion-related activities that are linked to federal funding. The Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which established the “undue burden” standard for determining whether abortion restrictions are permissible, gave Congress additional impetus to move on statutory responses to the abortion issue, such as the Freedom of Choice Act…The debate over abortion also continued in the context of health reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted on March 23, 2010, includes provisions that address the coverage of abortion services by qualified health plans that are available through health benefit exchanges. The ACA’s abortion provisions have been controversial, particularly with regard to the use of premium tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies to obtain health coverage that includes coverage for elective or non therapeutic abortion services. Under the ACA, individuals who receive a premium tax credit or cost-sharing subsidy are permitted to select a qualified health plan that includes coverage for elective abortions, subject to funding segregation requirements that are imposed on both the plan issuer and the enrollees in such a plan…”

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