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Inside Story Americas

America's abortion war

As anti-abortion activists have refocused their efforts on the state level, are pro-choice advocates keeping up?

Last Modified: 30 Mar 2013 11:24
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In the US a woman's ability to have an abortion has been a constitutional right for more than 40 years. But it has become increasingly difficult.

"You can never make abortion safe because it ultimately ends in the death of a human being. And so for us, our approach is to focus on that fundamental principle which we feel has been somewhat been abandoned at large. "

- Keith Mason, the president of Personhood USA

In fact, states like Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota and North Dakota each have only one abortion clinic.

And this week, North Dakota's governor signed the most restrictive laws in the country, making an abortion illegal at six weeks - before many women even know they are pregnant. Five other states are considering similar measures.

Earlier this month, Arkansas made it illegal to have an abortion at 12 weeks despite a veto by the state's governor.

These are just the latest restrictions in a push across several states to ban the procedure.

It is a trend that is spreading across the country. Since 2011, nine states have enacted Fetal Pain Bills banning abortion after 20 weeks, and three more states have them on the books, pending legal challenges.

"Any time I hear someone say they want to affirm humanity and dignity but they don't prioritise women's health as part of affirming humanity and dignity I have a real hard time taking them and hearing them as genuine and as authentic and as advocates for really trying to create a society where we can all be healthy and happy."

- Heidi Williamson, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress

Some pro-choice activists say it is time for a change in tactics to meet the challenge.

They note that anti-abortion rights groups have shifted their strategy - not just overtly targeting a women's right to choose through controversial legislation like that in North Dakota which is likely to be found unconstitutional; but also through zoning regulations and bureaucratic red tape that make it impossible for abortion clinics to function.

As anti-abortionists ramp up efforts to block abortion on the state level, we ask if pro-choice advocates can keep up.

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Tammi Kromenaker, the clinical director of the Red River Women's Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota; Heidi Williamson, a policy analyst on women's health and reproductive rights at the Center for American Progress; and Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff attorney for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

"One of the important things to remember about the Roe decision also is that it very specifically said that for the purposes of the 14th amendment, a foetus is not granted the rights of personhood, and that is exactly what Personhood USA is trying to change. And that is the way it is for a very important reason because once you start to treat a foetus as though it were entirely legally separate from the pregnant woman, pregnant women become a separate second class of persons."

- Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff attorney for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women

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Al Jazeera
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